Ottawa parents pull children out of daycare after outbreaks

Ottawa parents pull children out of daycare after outbreaks

Some parents in Ottawa have decided not to send their children to daycare amid rising cases of COVID-19 cases and a rash of outbreaks at child-care facilities over the past week.

Stella Yuen with her daughter Kayden, son Maxwell and husband Jeff. Yuen says she hopes to send her children to school and daycare in the fall. (Supplied)

Some parents in Ottawa have decided not to send their children to daycare amid rising cases of COVID-19 cases and a rash of outbreaks at child-care facilities over the past week.

An adult and child from a facility operated by Pinecrest-Queensway Community Centre on Ahearn Avenue tested positive on July 20. That same day, a staff member at the La Clémentine Michel Dupuis in Manotick also tested positive.

A third outbreak was declared days later on July 24 at the Renée Tassé Daycare at La Cité college after a staff member contracted the virus. 

Child-care centres in Ottawa were able to increase the size of individual groups in their facilities starting Monday to as many as 15 people — including staff and children — as part of Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening plan. There’s a long list of requirements for children, parents and staff to fulfil in order to access day-care centres.

But those precautions aren’t convincing some parents.

Natalia Rodriguez said she pulled her two children, aged one and six, out of home daycare last week after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Ottawa. 

“It’s a challenge, it’s definitely a juggling act,” said the lawyer who, like her husband, works from home.

Regardless of the obstacles of simultaneously parenting and working from home, Rodriguez said that it was the right decision for their family.

Natalia Rodriguez with her children Seraya and Diego and husband Aram Abizadeh. Rodriguez says she decided to pull her children out of daycare after a spike in COVID-19 cases in Ottawa. (NK Creative Studios)

“Everybody has a different risk assessment. Everybody has a different medical profile that makes them more or less vulnerable and everybody has different priorities that they’re trying to manage for their families,” she said. 

“Our priority is to keep everybody healthy. But other people have other priorities.”

According to a city report published in September 2019, there are more than 33,000 licensed child-care spaces in Ottawa, the vast majority of them provided in 313 child-care centres. A little more than 3,400 of those spots are in 859 licensed home child-care facilities, operated by 15 different providers.

‘Not just a temperature check’

Gina Bernard has three children aged two, four and six. She said sending them off to daycare, junior kindergarten and Grade 1 isn’t a risk her family is willing to take at this stage. 

“There’s just no circumstance in which it’s going to be OK without some sort of vaccine or very effective treatment,” she said.

Bernard said she would be open to sending her children to daycare if there was a way to test children and adults before they entered the child-care facility.

“Not just a temperature check,” she said.

Bernard said her family is looking for a part-time nanny whose services can be shared with another family they’re bubbling with. She’s also decided to home-school her kids.

“It is privilege,” she said. “We can afford to do this because we’re both able to telework and I’m really grateful for that. I don’t know how parents are managing who don’t have those options.”

Gina Bernard with her partner Michael Seeley and kids Atlin, Cassandra and Jacob. Bernard says she will not send her children to daycare unless there’s a vaccine or innovations in testing. (Supplied)

‘It was a difficult decision’

Stella Yuen said she resisted sending her oldest child to daycare when facilities reopened this summer because she wasn’t convinced they had enough lead time to do it safely.

“It was a difficult decision,” she said.

Yuen said she wants to send her three-and-half year old daughter to school in the fall and her one-year old son to daycare, but her plans could change if things get worse.

“If our [COVID-19] cases do really explode I’ll have to reassess it at that point.”

Yuen said having her children at home isn’t ideal because they thrive in social environments with other kids and by participating in activities led by qualified early childhood educators.

“I’m just really hoping that everyone in Ottawa does their part to keep community transmission low because we really need our kids back in school, five days a week, and also for kids to be able to go to daycare,” she said. 

“It’s important for so many reasons, whether it be for equity reasons for women going back to work [or] for children’s development. I just really want everyone to do their part.”

According to Ottawa Public Health, 40 young children had contracted COVID-19 during the first four months of the pandemic.

Gina Bernard, Stella Yuen and Natalia Rodriguez say that despite the challenges of having their kids at home, they’re not ready to send them to daycare right now. 1:22

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