COVID-19 cases impacting some North Carolina child care centers

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- State data shows there was a 3% increase of COVID-19 clusters in North Carolina child care centers from last week's report.

Four centers in Wake County are reporting clusters.

The East Coast Migrant Head Start Project provides free child care for the children of farmworkers. There are nine centers in North Carolina and they've had to close five of them temporarily due to COVID-19 cases among children and staff.

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Currently, 28 employees and 12 children are testing positive across their centers in the state.

ABC11 visited the Faison center Wednesday. One room there had temporarily closed due to COVID-19. It is now reopened but half of the children who are supposed to be in that room are still under quarantine.

"I think it's a factor that the rates of contagion, with this Delta variant, certainly plays a role," said Javier Gonzalez Gonzales, East Coast Migrant Head Start Project Chief Operating Officer. "We do our part here, at each of our centers. We clean and disinfect at least twice a day, so that children have the safest environment possible."

The project has instituted a policy all employees have to be vaccinated.

The center has handwashing stations outside their centers and everyone must wash their hands before going in. Those age two and older must wear a mask inside.

179 child-care centers in the state have closed, from February of 2020 to March of 2021. That's according to data from the NC Child Care Resource & Referral Council in partnership with NC Division of Child Development & Early Education.

One reason could be that many programs are still not operating at full enrollment due to the pandemic and aren't getting that revenue.

A national survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children shows 82% of child care centers in North Carolina are experiencing a staffing shortage right now, with half saying it's difficult to recruit and retain qualified educators compared to before the pandemic.

75 percent identify low wages as the main recruitment challenge.

The East Coast Migrant Head Start Project has 49 centers in 10 states in the country.

"With the Delta variant, you're seeing more and more children exposed," Gonzalez Gonzales said. "To date, we have about 40 children that have been diagnosed as positive for COVID, which has forced us to close classrooms, close centers at a rate of about 40 centers that we've had to close, which has resulted in approximately over 300 missed days, which is almost a school year, for children."

Some children in daycare centers are too young to wear a mask.

Duke Health Pediatrician Dr. Kitty O'Hare said children two and older can safely wear a mask.

"One thing that parents can do to help other parents is to please not send your child to the daycare center, if they have any symptoms at all," Dr. O'Hare said. "Anything could be COVID, a runny nose, a cough, a sore throat, diarrhea, fever. If your child has any symptoms at all, you should absolutely consult your pediatrician before taking your child to daycare. By keeping your child home, you'll be keeping other families safe."

"In this wave, with the Delta variant, across the country we're seeing many more children hospitalized with COVID," Dr. O'Hare said. "In fact, the Children's Hospital Association within the past week put out a public service alert that children's hospitals, intensive care units are filling up around the country, because children are getting very sick with COVID."

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