First, the state of Rhode Island announced to childcare workers and early childhood educators like Mary Varr that they were eligible for the Covid vaccine along with all of the other educators in the state. It made sense for Varr to seek out health care workers and those who work and live in long-term care facilities, but before the general population.
But then at the end of January the state announced Instead, this eligibility would depend solely on age. Although the state appreciates that 58 percent According to Varr, in this scenario, most of their staff won’t be able to get the vaccine until June, when K-12 teachers are eligible because of their age ahead of the general population. “Which is ridiculous,” said Varr, who is the executive director of the Woonsocket Headstart and Child Development Association.
“It’s very frustrating,” she said. “We have been working since the beginning of the pandemic.” In her state, daycare centers were allowed to reopen after the first lockdown in June. Their center reopened as soon as possible, although there were few guidelines on how to do it safely. It has been in operation as continuously as possible ever since.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” she said. She pointed out that there are more people in her classrooms than there are currently in the state recommends People interact with outside of their own households. Her employees “are in the trenches every day,” she said. “It continues to show the inequality of what people look like in early childhood.”
“It’s a slap in the face,” she added. “The fact that we are not considered professionals is not seen as important. [that we’re] Second class citizen. ”
The good news that effective vaccines against Covid-19 were being developed so quickly has now given way to a complicated debate over how to prioritize the limited and precious early doses. While many child carers and early childhood educators have been open and caring for children through most of the pandemic, many of them find that they are not eligible to receive the vaccine for months. Some states have even reconciled public school teachers, though both jobs require looking after children and are vital to the functioning of the larger economy.
The Centers for Disease Control recommended that child carer be included in phase 1b together with elementary and university teachers. But that was advisory and it is up to each state to make final decisions. Their choices were very different. According to an analysis by Child Care Aware of AmericaWhile 40 states have put childcare workers at the same level as K-12 educators, five of them – Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming – and Washington, DC, have placed K-12 teachers in front of these teachers and caring for children in younger years. As in Rhode Island, Vermont originally said that childcare workers and teachers would have priority at the same time and then would switch gears to set eligibility based on age, according to Mario Cardona, director of policy and practice at Child Care Aware. Four states – Florida, Indiana, Texas, and West Virginia – haven’t made it clear when childcare providers are eligible.
There are many reasons childcare providers and early childhood educators argue that they should be vaccinated in front of the general population.
“Childcare has been essential since before the pandemic,” Cardona said. “Vendors across the country are losing money and compromising their health and the health of their families … to keep their programs going.” K-12 educators are often prioritized in the hopes that widespread vaccination of educators can help keep schools reopening safely. “However, it’s not a situation where these child carers need a vaccine to open up.” They are open, ”Cardona remarked.
It’s not just that childcare workers and early childhood educators have to go to work in person. You are in high risk environments. Children under the age of 2 do not wear masks, and older people have difficulty wearing them. Children with disabilities cannot wear them at all, and those who have difficulty learning a language need to see their teachers’ lips. Caring for and teaching such young children requires a lot of contact: changing diapers, helping them eat, helping in the bathroom. And kids can’t necessarily wear masks while napping.
Then there is the financial component. In normal times, child carers work with little to no financial cushion. The pandemic has resulted in fewer enrollments as the cost of cleaning, smaller class sizes, and other security measures have increased dramatically. All of this has been compounded by constant closings when a child or their family is abandoned or becomes ill. Each time they close, providers can lose state subsidies and parent income. Even a teacher who is quarantined for 10-14 days is a difficulty, especially when so few people are willing to work as substitutes in person.
“We had to close classrooms several times in the past four months because a parent of a child tested positive or a child tested positive or a teacher tested positive,” said Varr. Seventy-seven employees have been out for Covid testing or quarantine in the past three months, she said. She has never had to submit a budget deficit to her board of directors. That year she told them she was in the red for $ 60,000. “I really don’t think you can stabilize childcare without it [it] be included earlier in the vaccine rollout, ”she said.
From July one in five Centers across the country were closed, and twice as many were certain they would have to close without financial aid. As more providers succumb to financial reality and close down, parenting options dry up. That will sputter any possible vaccine-fueled economic recovery.
Cardona was quick to say his organization is not criticizing any of the states’ eligibility decisions, finding that they are made by lawmakers and local officials. But others criticize her without hesitation.
There were K-12 educators in Kentucky prioritized in the current phase together with first aiders and people aged 70 and over, although many schools do not yet offer personal training. Childcare workers have been pushed into the next phase, which includes people aged 60 and over, all key workers, and those at the highest risk of complications. Bradley Stevenson, executive director of Kentucky, Inc.’s Child Care Council, does not argue that teachers should not receive the vaccine or be forced to reopen. “We didn’t advocate being ahead of K-12 here, we advocated being in line with K-12,” he said. “We believe these childcare workers are educators too, and they should be prioritized with K-12 educators.”
It’s even more chaotic in Oklahoma, where the state has a universal preschool for 4-year-olds. These educators, along with those who teach older children, are included in phase 2. All other child carers and educators are in phase 3, just before the final phase, which will open it to all citizens.
Childcare workers in Oklahoma receive public grants only for children who actually attend. If children are sick or classrooms have to be closed to ensure the quarantine, funding is stopped, although costs such as rent and salaries are not incurred. “It was very, very difficult,” said Paula Koos, executive director of the Oklahoma Child Care Resource & Referral Association. “Your income is up and down, up and down, up and down.” Even vendors who have been in business for a long time and know how to budget well “are ready to pull their hair out,” she said.
The explanation of why childcare workers are placed in lower rollout levels varies. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has pointed to limited offer. In DC, LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, the city’s health department director, stated in a letter to childcare advocates that she had decided to “vaccinate a large percentage of our personal public school workers,” which would make it possible. to expand the critical social function of the personal school. “She added,” If we were to open up to the full level, the demand for vaccines in community locations would be extremely high and we would not have an opportunity to have a meaningful impact on any particular group of workers. ” However, Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, director of early childhood policy and programs at DC Action, argued, “There is already something critical of the functioning of society that is open” – namely, childcare – “and it is not safe.”
Inability to get vaccinated isn’t just about providers’ finances. It’s also about justice. Are child carers and early childhood educators disproportionately Women of color. They also usually don’t have health insurance, which makes the need for vaccination even more urgent. “This is her health insurance,” said Stevenson.
T.These problems are even worse for those who care directly in the homes of people who are also disproportionately colored women. An analysis from 2013 showed this only 12 percent domestic workers such as nannies have employer-provided health insurance.
However, it is even more difficult for them to figure out if they are eligible for the vaccine, let alone prioritize them. Arizona not defined Child minders, for example, but in Maricopa CountyOnly those who care for five or more children are qualified. In New York the state has made Licensed child carers are entitled, but not determined whether this includes nannies. “They just haven’t made it clear exactly what that means,” said Trudy Rebert, a federal politician with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and also failed to outline exactly who will then be admitted to the next phase.
However, there is no good reason to exclude domestic workers just because they do not work in daycare. “You were on the front line of the pandemic,” Rebert said. They “look after our children, look after our parents, and do work that really enables others to go to work and they should be prioritized.”
Alicia Cleveland had worked as a nanny in Georgia for seven years before the pandemic, but she has now been unemployed for almost a year. She resigned to protect the health of her three children: one has chronic asthma; another has a heart murmur; and the third had breathing problems. But being out of work for so long “was a huge setback,” she said.
Domestic workers like Cleveland have not yet been explicitly prioritized in Georgia, although other key workers who “make it”[e] Continuity of functions that are critical to public health, safety, economic and national security. ” are. Cleveland doesn’t think that’s fair. “We make all other work possible,” she said. “Whether you do it in a private setting or in a school, in a small center, in a storage center, or in a daycare at church, you are caring for children. If you care for people, you should be able to be vaccinated . ”
And personally she will only be able to look for nannies again once she has been vaccinated. If she could get the vaccine, she said, “The world could open a little more.”
T.In particular, the inequality between child carers and teachers has spurred some action. At first, Jessica Robins was optimistic that she and her early childhood program staff at the Almond JCC in Cleveland, Ohio would have priority for the vaccine, as recommended by the CDC. Although the state has announced that K-12 employees who want or are already completing in-person training will be eligible in Phase 1B, there is still no word on when the state will make early childhood educators like them and their staff eligible. “It was surprising and disappointing,” said Robins. She estimates that only about a third of her employees will be eligible earlier, depending on their age.
But instead of just complaining, she decided to take action and started one with other vendors in the area petition on Change.org, which has been signed by more than 23,000 people, raising awareness that childcare workers have been excluded.
She runs both a day care program for younger children and a preschool program for older children and has had to make big changes to safely reopen in July. It has cut part-time enrollment and flexible working hours, and only allowed children who have come all day for a set number of hours. The class size shrank from 16 to 10 for preschoolers and from 10 to seven for younger children. She went from eight classes to seven. She no longer has external teachers for special classes such as yoga or music. But even all of these steps are not going to protect everyone’s health like a vaccine could, she noted.
Now she is looking forward to the coming school year and is trying to set her budget. “You need to know what you are planning, what are the class sizes, what are the lessons, are their specifics,” she said. Much of this depends on whether their employees can be vaccinated on time.
Stevenson’s organization was noisy too. The Kids Matter Coalition sent a letter to Governor Beshear on Dec. 17 asking that childcare workers be given priority over other educators, and also distributed a petition that was signed by over 1,000 people. The United Way of Kentucky also sent a letter to the governor in January.
Child carers have managed to make changes in some places. In Washington, D.C., they were originally in the same stage as the K-12 educators, but when it came time to actually implement the plan, they were expelled with no indication of when they might receive it. K-12 teachers were admitted on January 25th. “People were really confused because childcare has been personal since the pandemic started,” Anbar-Shaheen said, noting that schools have been virtual until the last few weeks. Vendors “felt like an afterthought,” she said. There was a feeling that “we don’t feel valued, we don’t feel important to our government”.
But they did not remain silent. They put together a petition similar to Robins’ and launched an appeal on social media. Others contacted members of the city council directly, many of whom sent letters to Mayor Muriel Bowser asking her to give priority to childcare workers. Even K-12 teachers spoke out alongside them, arguing that both groups should be eligible at the same time.
The pressure paid off. January 29th, Bowser announced that they could get the vaccine from February 1st. The challenge now is to ensure access to vaccines for a population who do not always speak English as their first language, who may not have the technology to register for an appointment, and who cannot spend time during the workday with constantly updating a website to find one. It will be difficult for them to leave work during the day to get the shot with a staff shortage that makes it difficult to find someone to get on while they are away.
However, eligibility is a critical first step. Robins would only be satisfied with more information. “You are looking for that light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. Even if childcare workers are not included in Phase 1B, the current phase, she still wants to know when they will be. “At least we have something to look forward to or something to plan.”