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Daycare operators pressured to reopen

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Ball

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Peter Jackson

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Efforts to reopen daycare centres in this province to accommodate children of essential workers appear to have hit a snag.

And the province may be back-tracking on its offer to pay daycare operators to stay closed.

The Association of Early Childhood Educators of Newfoundland and Labrador (AECENL) released a statement Friday highlighting the hypocrisy of putting child-care workers and children in jeopardy while telling others to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

“AECENL was ecstatic last week when the Department (of Education and Early Childhood Development) announced that there was a compensation package going to be in place so regulated child-care settings, ECEs and parents would not have to worry about the lack of financial resources during these stressful times,” the association said. “However, no one at the time thought that there would be conditions attached to the funding.”

The association said its members did not sign up for the kind of risk, and pay, that comes with being a front-line health-care worker.

“One adult attended two funerals and now more than 44 people have COVID‐19 as a result, which also accounted for the temporary closure of our main post office in St. John’s,” the association said, referring to dozens of infections that arose from a Caul’s funeral home visitation almost two weeks ago. “Yet we will consider having up to 30 people in one building?

“If one child comes to the child-care setting who is asymptomatic then potentially up to 29 other people and their families may be exposed.”

The three-page, single-spaced statement went on to explain that trying to keep toddlers physically apart would be nigh on impossible.

“How do you practice social distancing during nap time, diaper routines and consoling scared children?” the association asked.

“It is impossible for ECEs to practise the high level of sanitizing required to keep themselves and a room full of children safe from cross-contamination.”

On Friday, Premier Dwight Ball would not confirm whether the province has threatened to withhold funding, but he did hint that things were not going smoothly.

“If we indeed have to take extra measures, we’ll deal with that,” he said.

"We don’t want this to be an antagonistic discussion. We want to find a solution by working together,” he said, adding that other provinces have taken similar measures.

“What we’re asking is simply to support our essential workers.”

peter.jackson@thetelegram.com

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