Ohio child care facilities will be permitted to reopen starting May 31, Gov. Mike DeWine announced in his Thursday afternoon news briefing. Like everything else in the state, they’ll look much different than they did in March.
Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton president Joni Close, who helped develop the guidelines that will govern the reopening process, said hygiene will be child care providers' most important focus throughout the day. Although relatively few children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or experienced serious complications as a result, they remain susceptible to the illness and can easily transmit it to more vulnerable adults without a strict regiment of sanitization.
Parents should expect to see masked teachers taking students’ temperatures before they’re allowed inside.
Class sizes will be smaller — six children per class for infants and toddlers, nine per class for those preschool-aged and older. All children will be required to wash their hands many times each day, including when they first enter the daycare, between activities, after meals and right before they go home. Field trips won’t happen at all, but outdoor play is still on the table, provided teachers can sanitize shared toys and equipment between each use.
“We know that these changes will be unusual and maybe a little uncomfortable for some families and children, but we’re doing our best to be confident that these measures will keep everyone safe,” Close said.
The state of Ohio will spend $60 million in CARES Act funding to pay child care providers and ensure they can observe the new hygiene requirements, according to DeWine.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also announced a slew of other much-requested reopening dates in late May, including campgrounds (May 21), gyms and offices of the Bureau of Motor vehicles (both May 26).
The White House's official reopening guidelines for states and municipalities recommend that most businesses and services stay closed until the region has experienced a 14-day consecutive decline in the number of flu-like illnesses diagnosed and reported. In Ohio, however, the numbers continue to rise each day as testing becomes more readily available and more cases of COVID-19 are detected. By Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health had diagnosed a total of 26,357 patients with COVID-19 and counted 1,534 deaths connected to the illness.
DeWine and Acton acknowledged that proceeding could be risky.
"We don’t want to gamble — gamble’s a harsh word — on anyone in Ohio," Acton said.
However, she argued that child care facilities must reopen as a building block for the rest of the state. Without them, parents won't be able to return to work, other businesses will stay closed and families will remain without consistent income.
"We’re really trying to do so many things at one time," Acton said.