Maryland day cares increase cleaning, change play structure to combat coronavirus

Starting Monday, licensed day care providers in Maryland will be open to essential personnel only.

In response to the COVID-19 state of emergency, the Maryland Department of Education announced Thursday that all public and private child-care programs in the state will close at the end of the day Friday, and that programs would be set up by the state for the children of essential workers.

The change meant that those clients who were not in that category — health care providers and first responders for example — would have to keep their children at home or find friends or relatives who could pitch in.

Javier Chavez, who runs Lobina’s Child Care LLC in Rockville, said Thursday’s was not a complete surprise.

“There has been a steady increase in protective measures, and after the school-aged children started staying home” due to the closure of the public schools, “This was only a matter of time,” Chavez said.

Gloria Salazar with Colesville Child Care in Silver Spring said some parents who did not fall in the category of essential personnel were caught off guard.

“Some of them are a little bit afraid because they don’t know what they are going to do with their kids,” she said.

Salazar currently counts a number of essential personnel among her clients. “Nurses, doctors. We have one police officer.”

Both Salazar and Chavez said they are complying with the rules to make sure their day care centers undergo a thorough cleaning before opening Monday.

Chavez, a military reservist, said with an embarrassed smile that he’s a bit of a “prepper” and has plenty of the type of supplies needed for a deep cleaning. He has even stocked up on Department of Agriculture-approved snacks.

“Twenty-five years of military service, I do have my stash of MRE’s” he said, referring to the meals-ready-to-eat that are a staple in the military. “We’re not feeding those to the kids!”

In order to keep toddlers and children from being exposed to the coronavirus, Chavez said he is increasing the frequency of cleaning for his center. He’s also adding to the number of times kids wash hands during the day.

“Every two hours” is the new rule, he said.

Even playtime will have a different structure, with his staff members working with children at a number of different tables and play areas, instead of clustering around one table for play or activities.

And in the spirit of everyone pitching in during a time where many are caught short without items such as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, Chavez said, “We haven’t had the need to run out and get paper towels or Lysol or bleach, we’re pretty stocked up.”

Chavez said he plans to be in touch with some other day care providers he knows.

“If they remain open, I’m going to be sure to send them a note that we do have stuff to share.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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