A Williams Lake daycare closed at the end of Tuesday, March 17 due to their own concerns about COVID-19.
“We chose to shut down because we had a few parents that were down at the Pacific Dental Conference. They are all in self-isolation and their children had come to our centre, (before they knew of the possible exposure),” said Faren Lozier who co-owns Exploring the Puddle Early Learning Centre with Sheila Olson.
On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said everyone — more than 14,000 people — who attended the dental conference needed to stop working and self-isolate themselves immediately because someone who attended had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Their children could have still attended the centre, but they all took it upon themselves to go the extra mile and self-isolate their entire families,” Lozier said. “I commend them for this and firmly believe they have done the right thing.”
Lozier said the centre also has one staff with a low-immune system, another that is pregnant, and as child care workers are all in close proximity to the children they are working with.
Normally 40 children attend the centre in a day, and 72 families are using the centre.
“I’m frustrated the education minister said ‘we need to take action and keep the staff safe’ in response to school closures, but why is it any different for daycares?” Lozier said.
On Monday evening Lozier and Olson made the decision and informed parents, giving them the choice to bring children to the daycare Tuesday or not and see if they can make other child care arrangements.
She said all the parents have been very understanding.
There has been an early education staff shortage in Williams Lake, however, Lozier said the centre had recently hired someone to re-open the preschool program, but if anyone is ill they don’t have enough staff members.
“My frustration is that it’s the same thing as our wages we are always fighting for. ECEs just always seem to get put on the back burner. We aren’t as important as other people working with children and we are constantly in this battle of having to defend our careers that we are a professional body that goes to school for one to five years to get our licenses and degrees to be able to do what we do.”
Once they made the decision, Lozier said they contacted all the other daycare providers in Williams Lake to let them know why they were closing and encouraged everyone to keep communication lines open and support each other through the pandemic.
“We are thinking about the safety of our staff, the safety of our children that go to our daycare,” Lozier said. “We have to do our best to keep our vulnerable safe.”
So far Exploring the Puddle is the only day care that has made the decision to close, she added.
At this point she is waiting to hear if her staff will be eligible for EI because she and Olson made the decision to close.
“I’ve contacted MLA Donna Barnett’s office and am waiting to hear.”
Premier John Horgan said Tuesday that daycares will not be closed like schools — but that could change quickly and parents should be ready.
Alberta and Saskatchewan have closed daycares until further notice.
Editor’s note: This article was updated from its original version with a point of clarification from Lozier Wednesday morning as it had been pointed out to her that attendees of the Pacific Dental Conference were told they needed to self-isolate, but children still could have attended.