'Absolutely no plan at all': Daycare operators call for more support amid Omicron wave
Catriona Brown closed her preschool for the week on Monday after getting news that a child and staff member had COVID-19
Walking through the empty preschool on Wednesday, she fought back tears. “It’s very sad not seeing them here,” Brown said, pointing at an empty lunch table. “It breaks my heart actually.”
Brown doesn’t know if she had to temporarily shut down the preschool for the week, but says she wanted to be safe in the face of the Omicron wave without any new guidance from the province.
“Absolutely no guidelines [for the] what-ifs… absolutely no plan at all,” said an exasperated Brown.
School classes from kindergarten through Grade 12 were closed last week across B.C. to implement new safety measures and to prepare for the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but daycare and preschool providers were expected to open.
The sector says it’s been ignored and essentially left to fend for itself. “We’ve been neglected again in the pandemic and left to our own devices,” said Brown.
Adding salt in their wounds, the sector notes its staff work with the only age group unable to be vaccinated — kids under five years old. Consequently, operators want to see rapid tests provided at daycares — something the province has already promised for symptomatic teachers, staff and students at schools.
Meagan Brame, who runs Saxe Point Daycare in Esquimalt, B.C., also wants to see staff at daycares prioritized for booster shots and N95 masks.
“I have to slink around to various pharmacies every day to get the one box that I’m allowed, to make sure that my staff has masks,” said Brame.
For parents of children at daycares or preschool, the situation is also hard.
Many parents rely on daycare in order to work, but also feel like the sector isn’t getting the support it needs to keep their children safe.
Patricia Russel’s four-year-old daughter goes to Saxe Point Daycare. She says the daycare is doing everything it can, but without the government providing more support, she still worries for the staff and children at daycares.
“We've sort of joked that our four-year-old is like the canary in the coal mine — the rest of the family is all vaccinated, so she's the only one who's out there without protection,” said Russell.
The province issued a statement on Wednesday evening noting that it provided early childhood educators and licensed providers with guidelines.
Those guidelines were published, however, back in August of 2021 — well before the Omicron variant was on the scene. Daycares say they need more support and more current guidance.
“Daycare needs to stay open," said Brame. "How can we do that without hurting families, daycare providers and the staff that work within them?”
Meanwhile, Brown plans to reopen on Monday to the 48 families that rely on her service — and hopes better guidance arrives before her preschool’s next run in with COVID-19.