Can my Child go Back to Daycare?

With COVID-19 dominating the headlines, there is a lot of conflicting information to sort through. It’s difficult for families to figure out the best–and safest–thing to do during this pandemic. As states start to open back up, there is one question I have been asked over and over: “Can I send my child back to daycare?”

My honest, simple answer is: I don’t know. However, my recommendation as a pediatrician and parent is to wait for now. Let’s see if the virus really is retreating. If it is, it may only be temporary. Experts say we will see a second wave of infection in the fall.

Life is not going back to normal–at least not how we remember it–anytime soon. There will be a new “normal.” People will continue social distancing, wearing masks, and being more selective about when and where they venture out in public.

But for those people who are debating taking their children back to daycare, consider these three main issues:

  • The daycare facility should be following CDC guidelines and doing everything in their power to maintain a clean, safe facility.
  • There is no way to know how the families of the other children at the facility are living outside of school. They could be sheltering-in-place at home or venturing out in public frequently.
  • And perhaps most importantly, there may be people in our lives we need to protect. We may have elderly parents or grandparents. We may have close family members with underlying conditions or compromised health that place them in the high-risk category.

Ultimately, daycare may be the only option for some parents. For anyone considering this option, we need to make sure daycares are following CDC guidelines and taking appropriate precautions.

Here are some questions to ask before making this decision:

  • Are they screening the staff every morning to ensure they do not have a fever? And are they asking staff to stay at home, maintain social distancing, and keep themselves clean when they are not at work?
  • Are they cleaning and disinfecting frequently (at least daily, if not more)? In other words, are they putting in a lot of effort to stay clean and virus-free?
  • Is the daycare limiting the number of children and teachers in a room? Have they decreased class sizes and staff?
  • Are they screening the children and parents prior to letting them into the daycare center?
  • Are they limiting toys and outside objects in the classrooms? And are they monitoring them closely to keep children from putting things in their mouths?
  • Are they wearing gloves when changing diapers, preparing meals, etc.?

The list of questions can go on forever. But perhaps the biggest question is the one we have to ask ourselves: Does it really matter anyway? We know that children have a lower risk of serious illness from coronavirus. So why do we care?

The answer is that it matters if we are planning to see our older parents or grandparents. It matters if we or anyone we come in contact with are in the high-risk category. High-risk adults are still being told to shelter in place. If we have exposure to a high-risk friend or family member, we need to be careful about sending our children to daycare.

If you have the means, there are some other options to consider. A nanny might be a better and safer choice right now, even if you share them with another family you know and trust. You will at least have a little more knowledge of the nanny’s comings and goings and can maintain some degree of cleanliness. Another option is to watch a friend’s children for a few hours, then they can watch yours for a few hours. You save money, your children have some company, and you can still work.

I was a strong supporter of daycare in the pre-coronavirus days, and will be again when it’s safe to return to some semblance of our “normal” lives. However, right now I am still a little concerned and recommend exercising caution. If you have any other option available, I recommend using it and holding off on returning to daycare.

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