As parents get ready to send their children back to school, many have been asking themselves whether it’s safe. New data from UConn shows that fewer than 50 cases associated with child care centers have been reported to the state since the beginning of the pandemic.
“You’re 10 times less likely to contract COVID in a child care based on the data that we have,” said Kate Parr, a researcher at UConn who looked at the data.
It is not a scientific study. It was based on self-reported cases by child care centers across the state.
“It’s the best we have right now and I’ve got to make a decision now about do we move from classrooms of 14 to 18. You know Connecticut’s about slightly under 50% of its regular childcare supply. Parents are returning to work and we want public health guidance to guide our decisions,” said Commissioner Beth Bye of the state Office of Early Childhood.
Between 1,500 and 1,900 child care locations have been open since COVID-19 hit and only 47 people — 37 staff and 10 children — associated with those centers have tested positive.
“What we do have is data saying we’ve had these COVID cases and then typically a childcare would tell us or not whether they shut down as a result of that,” Parr says.
The head of the Early Childhood Alliance says the data is encouraging.
“What this data tells us is that when you take precautions when staff are wearing masks and you’re being careful you minimize the risk,” said Merrill Gay, the executive director of the Early Childhood Alliance.
But there are limitations to the data.
“What it doesn’t answer is the question for every early educator: Is do I put myself at high risk being around asymptomatic kids,” Gay said.
Bye is still waiting on a more scientific study from Yale University, but will have to make decisions now based on what she knows.
Over the past few months childcare providers have been dealing with enhanced cleaning and screening on a regular basis.
“We had a teacher whose husband was being tested so we called and they said just have her quarantine until he gets his results. So we haven’t had to shut down any of our centers or any of our rooms,” said Jill Marini, director of Early Learning at the YWCA in Greater Hartford.
She said they still do temperature checks even though it’s not required because it makes the parents feel better.