‘I am worried’: Childcare operators work to navigate latest COVID-19 surge

Click to play video: 'Manitoba daycare concerns'
Manitoba daycare concerns
Global's Corey Callaghan looks at some concerns daycares in Manitoba have as they navigate the latest wave of the pandemic – Dec 30, 2021

Some childcare centres are feeling apprehensive as COVID-19 cases continue to spike

Aleph-Bet Child Life Enrichment Program Inc.’s Robyn Avery says concerns are growing as we continue to see the Omicron variant rapidly spread through the province.

Avery has been working hard to secure N95 masks for her staff. It’s what medical experts recommend since Omicron is highly transmissible, but she hasn’t been able to get any.

She says they are hard to find despite some being offered through Liquor Marts and some MLA offices.

“I want my staff to feel safe coming to work as best as they can be and still provide care for families and essential workers,” said Avery.

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Staffing is also a challenge.

The centre has 25 workers throughout three locations. Recently, the centre has been in tough positions. Ten employees were unavailable in one day.

“Not all have symptoms. Some were on holidays but those are booked as well. So if I don’t have enough people and kids come sick, we could be in a serious problem,” said Avery.

Niigaanaki Day Care Centre is feeling the crunch too.

“We’re kind of scared at the way things are going. If someone does have a symptom, we may not know if they were positive until they are feeling better. It’s really frustrating,” said executive director Lois Coward

Corward would like to see more use of rapid tests.

Right now, she says they are limiting their use to those who are unvaccinated but she feels more regular use of the tests could help more employees feel safer.

“Every morning or every other morning would be great so we nip that in the bud,” Coward said.

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The Minister of Families, Rochelle Squires, who oversees early childhood education, responded to the latest concerns.

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“We thank all early learning and childcare facility staff for their important work. Our government has been ensuring that Manitoba childcare centres have access to quality PPE throughout the pandemic,” said Squires.

“As of Dec. 17, over 5.1 million individual pieces of PPE, including over 4.8 million level 3 medical grade masks have been distributed to childcare facilities at a provincial cost of $1 million.”

“We recognize that staff absences are an issue we are facing with Omicron. Early learning and child care facilities are being encouraged to prioritize access to available or vacant child care spaces for children of critical service workers,” she added.

“Our government appreciates the impacts of recent health changes on the childcare sector, especially when given short notice due to the dynamic nature of Omicron. Information continues to be issued quickly and further updates will be forthcoming as soon as possible.”

Both daycares say they could be in danger of closing.

“We battle one fire at a time that’s the way we are going to have to do it. Every morning is something different,” Coward said.

The Manitoba Child Care Association is echoing these concerns. It says there some simple things people can do to make slightly easier for everyone.

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“Some daycare may very well have to close. We’re asking families be respectful and have patience as we continue through this together,” Manitoba Child Care Association’s Jodie Kehl said.

“We want do that what’s best for everyone.”

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