Doctors and Nurses Need Child Care to Fight Coronavirus

by Hans Bader

Last week, several governors correctly closed their states’ schools to slow the spread of coronavirus. The draconian actions were needed to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks as the number of coronavirus cases grows exponentially.

But closing the schools will place heavy burdens on many parents who have to work, can’t work from home, and have no stay-at-home spouse — especially nurses taking care of critically-ill coronavirus patients. All of a sudden, nurses will either need to find child care for young children previously in school, or quit working and stop taking care of critically ill patients. Obtaining child care on such short notice is likely to be difficult, and quite expensive even when it is available.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order Saturday to deal with this problem. It aims to help overwhelmed “providers of health care” and “emergency medical services” do their job by “expanding child care access.” It authorizes the State Superintendent of Schools to “suspend certain State child care and local regulations,” including “zoning” and “land use” permits, in order to “expand capacity for child care services.” It also allows the Superintendent to “issue guidelines permitting family and friend child care providers to provide care for up to five unrelated children in the provider’s home.” This is a good first step that other governors, such as Virginia’s Ralph Northam, should also take if possible.

WBAL TV reports on the Maryland governor’s action Saturday:

Gov. Larry Hogan enacted an emergency order to expand child care access for critical personnel while Maryland schools are closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Saturday, Hogan announced the order will ensure child care services are available for providers of health care, emergency medical services and law enforcement personnel while schools are closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our state has taken major and unprecedented actions to protect the health, the safety, and the welfare of the people of Maryland,” said Hogan. “As we continue to operate under a state of emergency, we are committed to doing everything in our power to maintain our essential services, including child care, especially for those who are on the front lines helping us combat this public health threat.”

On Thursday, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that plans would be developed to ensure that the children of emergency services personnel have access to childcare throughout during a prolonged period of school closure.

Perhaps states could set up their own child care centers for children of critical personnel, such as the kids of doctors, nurses, emergency medical services, and National Gguard members. If schools are closed, school staff not involved in distance learning could perhaps provide daycare for such kids.

States should also consider providing financial assistance to critical personnel, if child care prices spike due to lengthy school closures. But such price spikes won’t last long if child-care regulations are relaxed to allow child-care workers to be hired without first acquiring a time-consuming license. Rising unemployment will soon make it easier to find people for child-care jobs. That’s because coronavirus is sending the economy into a recession, creating joblessness. Lots of people who work in restaurants, shops, and bars are going to lose their jobs in the coming months as the number of customers declines due to people avoiding crowded places and the risk of contagion. These people could work in child care instead, if state licensing rules didn’t require them to spend a lot of time getting a license before being hired as a child-care worker.

I realize it is ironic to expand daycare in the face of school closings, because daycare provides many of the same risks of transmission as schools do. Ideally, children would be at home, not in daycare, during a pandemic. But at least closing the schools keeps some kids with a stay-at-home parent or close relative away from other people, and thus reduces the overall rate of transmission, giving the healthcare system time to cope with the epidemic.

Hans Bader is an attorney living in Northern Virginia. This post originally appeared in Liberty Unyielding.

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4 responses to “Doctors and Nurses Need Child Care to Fight Coronavirus”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Lots of people who work in restaurants, shops, and bars are going to lose their jobs in the coming months as the number of customers declines due to people avoiding crowded places and the risk of contagion. These people could work in child care instead, if state licensing rules didn’t require them to spend a lot of time getting a license before being hired as a child-care worker.”

    there’s a lot to unpack in that statement, not the least of which are the folks who work in restaurants may have their own children and the ones that do not may not be suited at all to child care – which actually is a skilled job and the real reason why we have laws and regulations there-in.

    Then I’d ask if these folks would be paid and if so by who – taxpayers – who won’t be earning money and paying taxes?

    Who is going to pay for all of this? One guess!

    And no, this is not an opportunity for the “free market” to step in and “relax” laws and regulations and then have the govt (in the name of reverting to the free-market to “help” and essentially force displaced workers to do work they’re not trained to do for low or no wages… Who thinks like this?

    The “close all schools” idea itself is really a govt-imposed one-size-fits-all solutions with enormous consequences of which we have not really analyzed before all this is happening and the question is – is it necessary across an entire state even in places where there are zero cases?

    In New York, they did not close all schools. The Governor pointed out that some rural counties have zero cases but if they do start to see some, THEN he WOULD take action – and deal with the consequences.

    In Virginia – and in other states – having schools close in a “rolling” fashion, as indicated, would mitigate impacts, give time for agencies and organizations to ramp up ..and essentially help “flatten” the bubble so that we don’t reach peak impacts that require maximum resources to respond to.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Three days ago it seemed obvious that Northern Virginia would take the brunt of the Coronavirus outbreak. Then came Virginia’s first case of Coronavirus through community spread and the first death from Coronavirus – in James City County, not Northern Virginia. The last I read there were 10 cases in James City County (pop: 76,000) and 10 cases in Northern Virginia (pop: 2.7M?).

      Who could have guessed New York’s hotspot would be New Rochelle?

      Northam made the right decision. He can selectively reopen schools by district or area after we have a better handle on where this is spreading within Virginia.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    What about school bus drivers? They’ve been through background checks I assume. They have experience dealing with kids. I assume they are still getting paid although there are no kids to drive around in buses. Test them and put them to work. If they don’t want to do this – fine, they stop getting paid.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      School Bus drivers going to do meals also?

      About the only experience a lot of school bus drivers have with kids is to tell them to sit down and shut up. They have cameras on the buses to capture the trouble makers.

      Buses have aides and schools have “resource” officers. This is a mess with no easy answers.

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