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‘A huge juggling act’: B.C. parents struggle daily with COVID-19 and daycare

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B.C. parents frustrated over COVID-19 daycare rules – Dec 2, 2020

It’s no secret that children get colds, especially this time of year, but B.C. parents are facing a daily dilemma unlike any before this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to keep everyone safe, parents are being asked to keep kids home from daycare if they have at least two of the seven daily health-care check symptoms.

Parents are struggling to work to pay the bills while keeping their children home when necessary.

Read more: B.C.’s daily health checklist for children going to school shortens to just 7 symptoms

“Since [the summer] it’s been tricky because any runny nose, any cough… what I’m finding difficult is having two kids in one setting and one kid in one setting and the germs just kind of [mix]. They’re missing lots of time at school, lots of time at daycare because they just can’t bring those symptoms to daycare right now and understandably we don’t want to spread those germs,” mom Sherri Stahl who has three kids — two in daycare — told Global News.
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She said she had to quit her full-time job as a nurse because she couldn’t get daycare for her kids. Now she works casually.

Stahl said she understands why these measures have to be taken to keep everyone safe but it is tough to juggle colds and know just when to keep kids home or send them to school and daycare.

She says her kids have missed several weeks of daycare at least.

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Daycare owners tell Global News they understand the pressure parents are under and they are feeling the struggle too.

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Lucy-Ann Smith, owner of Happy Campers Daycare in Victoria said the situation was difficult at the beginning of the pandemic when there was so much confusion, but it did help both the daycare and families once the government implemented the Temporary Emergency Funding agreement. This program supported the daycares if parents kept their kids home due to illness, allowing the daycare to reimburse the parents.

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However, that program ended Aug. 31.

“In regards to illness and wellness policies, all children get colds,” Smith said. “Parents have to work. We’ve never sent children home if they have a cold — runny nose, sniffles, things like that. If they can participate in the daily program and if their symptoms aren’t contagious, [they stay].”

She added symptoms like coughing uncontrollably or oozing green mucous would send a child home for the safety of the other children and staff.

“The most difficult thing to deal with right now is if a child has, for example, asthma, an underlying condition, allergies… they present very similar [to COVID-19 symptoms]. So I have parents get a note saying this is an existing condition or take a photo of the prescription meds.”

Read more: Allergies or coronavirus? Doctors explain how to tell the difference

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She said if a child has a runny nose or mild symptoms then they just monitor the situation and the child can attend the daycare. “If a child comes in and they are clearly sick, we will call the parent to come back and pick up or we will send the children home. And that would happen anyway, pre-COVID.”

“Once it starts spreading and the parent comes and says ‘no, my child’s fine’ and the staff starts getting it then the whole centre has to close.”

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Smith said they haven’t had any major complaints from parents having to keep children home due to possible-COVID-19 symptoms and not getting reimbursed for the cost of daycare.

“On the business side, I’ve still got staff to pay. They’re still taking up a spot. If they don’t come and they don’t want to pay, how are the bills, how are the wages going to get paid?”

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Read more: National child care coming in 2021 budget, Liberals pledge

Smith said the TEF agreement was a huge help as it allowed her to continue to pay staff and buy the necessary equipment to help sanitize the centre and install extra washing stations.

Daycares will get a one-time payment of a Health and Safety Grant from the government as long as they applied before Nov. 25.

On Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan said Katrina Chen, the Minister of State for Child Care, would be holding her first meeting about child care in the province in the afternoon.

“We do know that the sick pay benefit that we worked so hard with the federal government to establish has gaps and holes,” Horgan said, adding that they want to work collaboratively with the federal government to make sure that the services that “people need are there for them when they need them, and also to make sure that those service deliverers are compensated for the work that they do.”

Stahl, who does not get paid sick time, said it would be nice to have some help when there are stricter measures around illnesses for children.

“It’s a significant hardship for a lot of moms.”

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“It’s a huge juggling act,” she said. “And I know, myself, and lots of other moms are suffering when we’re not able to go to work. For us, it’s an income and it’s part of our mental health and wellbeing to get out and go to work.”