Focus must be on keeping daycare centers safe
We can be grateful that the overwhelming majority of children infected by COVID-19 get through it with few or no symptoms. Yet they can carry the coronavirus and spread it to others — though scientists are not certain yet how serious a threat that presents.
Clearly, however, the potential for a large number of asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers is worrisome. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice seems to recognize that.
Justice may well have saved lives by insisting that everyone, residents and staff, at long-term care homes in the state be tested for COVID-19. Last week, he expanded that order to include other assisted-living facilities and at day-care centers be tested, too.
Reopening of day-care centers is critical to getting our state’s economy back on track. Many parents have no choice but to drop children off at the centers on their way to work.
During one of his daily press briefings last week, the governor explained his order for day-care employees to be tested was motivated by learning that four day-care staff members in Kanawha County tested postive for COVID-19 — though they had displayed no symptoms. Several centers have begun testing on a voluntary basis.
At least Justice’s order gives parents some assurance that when day-care centers they use open, staff members will be free of the virus.
Then what? What if an asymptomatic child transfers COVID-19 to a day-care staffer or to other children, who take the virus home with them?
We do not mean to be nervous Nellies. But the potential for such a scenario, resulting in a new, community-wide outbreak of COVID-19, is very real.
Of course, day-care employees will have to be ultra-conscientious about steps to reduce the possibility COVID-19 is spread. But social distancing? Try that with a room full of 4-year-olds.
It is unfortunate that the availability of COVID-19 test kits remains limited. Otherwise, a step such as regular re-testing of day-care staffers could be used as a safeguard. Perhaps public health officials have other ideas in mind.
If so, Justice should make implementing them a top priority.
We cannot continue living under a partial lockdown of our economy. That would be financially unsustainable. So businesses have to reopen and working parents will need day-care centers. It is a step West Virginia has no choice but to make.
Justice was wise to take extraordinary action to protect the oldest and most vulnerable in our state. A similar focus needs to be on keeping day-care centers as safe as possible.