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Durham emergency child care centres offer relief during coronavirus pandemic

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WATCH: Since the pandemic started, it's been a juggling act for those on the frontlines, balancing work and family. Emergency child care centres have been able to ease some of the stress – Apr 29, 2020

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, those who work in health care or in essential services have had to juggle work and family.

Emergency child care centres throughout the region have been able to ease some of the stress.

“I was lucky I was able to get one of the last spots here at this daycare centre,” said Nicole Gilchrist, an Advanced Care Paramedic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario government to open child care centres for frontline workers

It’s 8 a.m., Gilchrist is dropping her daughter Emma off at Lakewoods Child Care Centre in Oshawa before going to work.

Three to five days a week, the advanced care paramedic and her husband, who’s a firefighter, use the service.

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“We can go to work and do our jobs while we know that our daughter is well taken care of in a safe environment,” said Gilchrist.

Gilchrist was on the frontlines during SARS, but she didn’t have a child back then.

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The first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were a challenge, she said, until the government re-opened some of the facilities.

“It was a scary time and a strain to the family, thinking of what we were going to potentially do if we ran out of vacation time to be able to take time off to stay at home with Emma,” said Gilchrist.

Emma misses being in her Second Grade classroom but, for the moment, the 7-year-old is enjoying the alternative.

She said she was worried at first. “My mom told me that I’m going to daycare, I’m like ‘I won’t make any new friends,'” but says she has since made many friends. “Yes, lots,” Emma said.

Lakewoods Child Care Centre is one of seven currently open in the region, there are also four licensed home child care agencies offering emergency child care. In total, close to 200 kids are being cared for in Durham.

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That number will likely go up with the province announcing Wednesday that more essential workers will be eligible.

READ MORE: Durham residents explain how pets can be a lifeline during COVID-19 pandemic

“I think moving to 24/7 care has been a change for all of us,” said Courtney Trafford, Registered Early Childhood Educator.

It’s been almost a month since Lakewoods reopened, with some adjustments having been made for safety.

“The number of children in the program, space has been limited, as well as the materials we have available to us in the space,” said Trafford. “We’ve limited some plush items and only kept those items in the centre [that] we can properly disinfect during the day.”

While no one knows how long these services will operate in their current fashion, or when restrictions will loosen, Nicole Gilchrist is grateful for the sense of relief it’s brought her family.