New Brunswick’s education minister said that the province is asking residents to “embrace the risks” as it continues to follow its COVID-19 recovery plan.
Dominic Cardy said that the government’s decision to reopen child-care facilities is about balancing the challenges that come with living during a global pandemic rather than directing all New Brunswickers to self-isolate indefinitely.
“If we want to emerge from this with the opportunity to build on what we had before then we need to embrace the risk,” Cardy said on Wednesday, describing the province’s approach as a shared voyage for New Brunswickers.
As a result, the province has released a parent’s guide to child-care facilities on their website.
The province has entered the “orange” phase of its COVID-19 recovery, which will allow New Brunswick’s regulated daycares to open on May 19.
Unregulated daycares were permitted to open when the province began its “orange” phase last week.
However, some child-care facilities have told Global News they will need to delay opening to ensure they are able to meet the requirements set out by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
“To be perfectly honest it wasn’t feasible for us to get our doors open at that time,” said Melissa McCallum, the director of Little Geniuses Childcare Centre in Fredericton on Wednesday.
“Just in contacting parents alone to find out who was coming back took about two days. The last two days have been spent calling people and figuring out where they’re at.”
Nicole Gervais, the executive director for early childhood development, said that they’ve talked to about 50 per cent the registered child care facilities in the province.
Of that group approximately 80 per cent are set to reopen on May 18, Gervais said.
It’s a decision that Cardy said he expects some child-care facilities to make.
“We expect staggered openings as with other businesses,” said Cardy. “Some may not open at all. As private businesses that is their choice.”
Cardy stressed that anyone who has travelled outside of the province is not allowed to visit early child-care centres.
Health officials are also asking for people who will send their children to daycares to allow individuals who have travelled outside of the province to self-isolate in their household.
“Protect the bubble,” Cardy said.
There will be a new screening protocol for all early learning facilities which will include a questionnaire and a mandatory temperature check for anyone entering a facility.
Cardy said the province is offering facilities $20 per each licensed child-care spot to help cover advanced cleaning procedures.
The education department’s new guidelines say that child-care centres will be able to operate at full capacity, but will have to separate children into self-contained groups of 15.
Kids will not have to practice physical distancing within their group, but the groups themselves will have to maintain two metres of separation.
Cardy admitted that it is a significant departure from what is enforced among the general public but said it’s the nature of New Brunswick’s new reality to make tough choices.
“We’re trying to do our best with balancing the gold standard of physical distancing at all times with the biological reality of young children,” he said.
Gervais confirmed that employees at child-care facilities are not required to wear a mask unless a staff member or a child becomes sick at the facility.
If a sick child cannot be isolated from everyone else in the facility than masks are to bear worn.
Children under two will not be required to wear masks.
She added that they are expecting educators to teach children about physical distancing and good health practices.
Temperature checks and screening will have to be conducted for all staff and children entering the building and disinfecting and handwashing procedures will have to be put in place, all of which must be outlined in an operational plan.
Cardy said the province has purchased a stock of infrared thermometers for the province’s facilities in order to ensure temperature checks can be conducted.
With files from Silas Brown.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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