Schools could look to daycares for models on bringing students back to class

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As schools work to develop plans about how to bring children back into the classrooms, they might look to daycares for guidance.

Many childcare centers never closed but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected by the virus.

When schools across the Mid-South shut down, and much of the many places went on lockdown, daycares deemed essential kept operating.

WREG obtained a list from the Department of Human Services of Tennessee centers reporting positive COVID cases as of July 7.

Fourteen childcare centers from the greater Memphis area made the list. The state did not tell us how many cases each center reported and if the cases involved children or staff.

According to a spokesperson, DHS doesn’t collect that data.  

We asked Dr. Jason Yaun, chief of pediatrics at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, what parents can do before or after a case is reported.

“I think you want to ask what measures they’re taking to keep students and staff safe,” he said. “How are they disinfecting? Are they trying to cohort children, are they trying to spend more time outside?”

According to the health department, 1,808 children in Shelby County have tested postive for coronavirus.

We contacted some of the daycares with positive cases. None wanted to comment on camera for this story but at least one told us they’re sanitizing and cleaning regularly.

Yaun says the good news for parents with children at daycare is that a CDC study shows transmission seems lowest among younger children.

“Younger children, those age 0-9 are not the primary transmitters of COVID in the house,” Yaun said. “Conversely though, the same study did report children who are 10-19 years of age are actually the highest transmitters of COVID.”

The CDC issued guidelines for daycares to follow. The agency recommends staff wear masks and practice social distancing as well.

“I think a lot of places also have had success in cohorting smaller groups of children, so that if one group is exposed or there is one positive case that we’re not talking about shutting down the whole daycare or the whole school. We may be shutting down a classroom or one particular area,” Yaun said.

Yaun says as schools start to reopen they can learn from daycares, a reason why one suggested model for returning back to class is starting with the elementary age children first.

“I think we have some good data from around the country that shows daycares for the most part have not been affected and staff members are definitely affected more than children, but overall both of this numbers are very low,” Yaun said.

“I think it would be encouraging for schools, especially those elementary aged students, many of whom in this region are still planning to go fully in person in some districts.”

The CDC has published guidelines and checklists for parents that spell out everything from how your center should do diaper changes to recommendations on toys that should be out of reach at this time. Find those guidelines here.

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