The coronavirus is affecting every level of society, including the tots and toddlers in daycare and their caregivers.
Several area daycare operators said this week they are stepping up sanitation and hygiene efforts. Some are taking on more kids with public schools are closed. Others have fewer because parents are keeping their kids at home.
Jean Tapia of Winfield cares for eight to 10 children in her home. She has them up to 10 hours a day; then she does a couple of hours of cleaning after that to make sure everything is as sterile as possible, not only for the kids in her care but for her own family.
“I’m scrubbing something all the time,” Tapia said. “You have to with little kids. And with this sickness, you have to be even more careful.”
Tapia said the kids are washing their hands every time they pick something or before they eat something. She tries to keep them as far apart as possible when they are playing or napping or eating.
She said none of the kids has talked about the coronavirus or acted like it was bothering them. “We don’t talk with them about it,” she said. “We try to keep everything as normal as possible. They’re little. They don’t need to be bothered with it.”
Tapia said the addition of two hours of cleaning beyond the 10 hours she’s with the kids is very fatiguing.
“And I don’t see that changing for a while,” she added.
The what ifs?
Woods Child Care Center in Arkansas City numbers are down. They have a lot of children of teachers. With school out, parents are staying home with their kids or leaving them with grandparents, said owner Mary Kunkle.
Kunkle said the cleaning and disinfecting recommended by the health departments is not new to the daycare center or to the profession in general. “We clean all the time anyway,” She said.
“We mop the floors two or three times a day,” Kunkle said. “We don’t want the kids sick. They are our livelihood.”
She’s doing everything she can to keep them at a distance from one another. When they take their naps, the kids are spaced farther apart than they normally are. At lunch time, they sit farther apart as well.
Kunkle said the kids in her older group, ages 6 and up, are aware of the coronavirus and the changes it has made in their lives.
“They were supposed to go see the Harlem Globetrotters, and that trip was canceled,” she said. “They don’t have a routine and they want that. I haven’t told them what will happen if the virus goes on into the summer. I always take them swimming, bowling, other outside activities. With everything closed, we won’t do any of that.”
An older child asked Kunkle, “What are we gonna do if you get sick?”
She told them someone would always be there at the daycare, and they wouldn’t shut down unless the health department requires it.
Kunkle also said the coronavirus is somewhat below the horizon of her concern when it comes to preventative cleaning.
“I’m always looking out for strep, pinkeye, bedbugs, head lice — the stuff that’s constantly around. The coronavirus is last on my list.”
Fairytale Friends in Winfield got caught in the travel trap of the coronavirus.
“Last week we went to Colorado,” said Rose Trobaugh, daycare owner. When she got back and realized Colorado was on the “do not travel to” list, she called the Kansas Department of Health and Human Services.
They suggested she close but did not demand it.
“I just decided we needed to close for the whole week,” Trobaugh said. “We’re spending this week deep cleaning.”
She said she had five kids at the daycare before spring break. Her husband works at a school that has been closed, so he will be available to help her at home.
“We’ll probably go from five to 10 kids” since he will be there to be her backup.
Vickie Hizar, of Sunshine Daycare in Winfield, said they’re washing the building more, and the kids are washing their hands more often.
“We do that a lot,” Hizar said, “and we already bleach like crazy.”
Staff are cleaning the office up front more often — door handles, counter tops, wherever anyone can touch.
Sunshine has infants to kids up to 12 years in the program. Hizar said she hadn’t noticed any added stress caused by the pandemic in the older kids.
“They might be talking about it,” Hizar said, “but we’re not seeing it here.”
Lauri Duncan of Duncan Child Care in Arkansas City has 14 kids enrolled and usually has 10 at a time in the daycare. Her children range in age from 10 months to 11 years.
“We’re just sanitizing more. We’re washing hands more. Coughing into our elbows. It’s just common sense,” she said.
She said some kids are irritated because they are not going to school.
“Distress, no; irritation, yes,” she said. “We don’t talk about it, though I would answer a question if somebody asked.”
Her one concern right now is waiting for the school district to come up with lesson plans for the older kids, so they won’t get behind in their work.
The older kids can do a lot of things for themselves, she said, but she wants to be able to help them as needed.