Amid COVID-19 concerns, P.E.I. daycare closures cause uncertainty for workers, parents

Daycare workers and parents say the safety of their children remains the top priority, but the closure of daycare centres across the province has left them with unanswered questions.

Daycare centres on P.E.I. closed from March 17 until further notice

Michele Coker, director of Little Lambs Child Care Centre, says she's worried about paying the bills while the centre is shut down. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Daycare workers and parents on P.E.I. say the safety of their children remains the top priority, but the closure of daycare centres across the province has left them with unanswered questions.

On Sunday, P.E.I. government and health officials announced closures of all daycare centres from March 17 until further notice as part of government's preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

The shutdown affects more than 70 private and public daycares across the Island, which employ more than 500 people. Some employees, who will be out of work for three weeks, are uncertain about the impact the closures will have due to a lack of information. On Monday, the province announced $25 million in aid for workers and businesses affected by closures.Officials also said government is exploring compensation plans for child-care staff.

Maddy Miller, a daycare worker from First Friends Child Care, said her main concern is for families.

"Do they have to pay? Do they lose their spots? What's going to happen for families that you know, they still have to go to work and find childcare or still have to pay and lose out on work?" 

Staff at Little Lambs Child Care Centre in Charlottetown give the place a final cleaning before it shuts down on Tuesday. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

On Monday, the 11 staff at Little Lambs Child Care Centre were giving the place one last scrub before doors close and they are laid off.

Little Lambs director Michele Coker said people are OK with the closures, and will to do whatever it takes to beat the coronavirus, but she has few answers for parents and staff.

"It is a little scary. Staff are worried about getting paid. I'm worried about paying bills. Hopefully we get answers to that soon."

The province has said it is working out the details of financial compensation as parents begin to make alternate arrangements.

Vanessa Trainor, a parent with a child in daycare, says she'd like to know how government will help people financially, especially those who are self-employed. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Some are relying on private babysitters, older brothers and sisters who are now not in school or extended family such as grandparents

"The only people you have for daytime care are grandparents — and they're kind of the people we want to protect," said Vanessa Trainor, a parent who has a daughter in daycare. 

She said she is also worried about the effect on self-employed workers like her husband.

"He doesn't get paid unless he works, and I know there's a lot of people out there in the same position," she said. "I think it's important that the government lets us know how quickly can we get money for people to pay bills, because those don't stop."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Brian Higgins


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