About 30 toddlers had already arrived on July 13 for their day at the UNM Children’s Campus when Daniela Baca learned someone who visited the center regularly had tested positive for COVID-19.
Within an hour, the facility had emptied out and she had contacted the state health department. “We needed to stop accepting children,” she said. “We switched gears into making sure that we notified families what was going on.”
By mid-day, Baca had shifted her focus from caring for children to working with a pandemic rapid response team composed of workers from several state agencies. The team tested all staff and children that came into contact with the person infected by the virus, sanitized every inch inside and outside. They also tried to find out every person the infected person might have come into contact to prevent the spread at other locations.
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, along with other senators, called on Congressional leadership to allocate at least $50 billion in emergency funding to stabilize the childcare industry. The National Women’s Law Center estimates that at least $9.6 billion is needed each month to preserve the nation’s childcare system during the pandemic. According to a letter, many childcare centers projected at the beginning of the health crisis that they could not remain operational if they had to close for more than two weeks. Many across the nation have been closed for longer than that, the letter states. The letter said that keeping childcare functional is “critical for getting families back to work and school as we recover from this crisis.”
“The profound gaps in our childcare infrastructure already cost American families and the economy about $57 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity and revenue,” the letter states. Nearly 500 organizations around the country signed the letter.
The state’s message that childcare centers in New Mexico should remain open while everyone else is encouraged to stay home is the wrong message, say some early childcare educators. The state has asked early childcare centers to stay open while public schools are closed and to accept more children by loosening regulations. But at the same time, the state is encouraging businesses to rely on remote workers and is encouraging the public to limit itself to gatherings of no more than 100 people. President Donald Trump said Monday that the public should not gather in groups of more than 10. Related: State offers assistance to families and child care providers during emergency
According to a state report, 85.5 percent of early childcare workers are women and 55.1 percent identify as Latina or Hispanic.