COVID-19 affects child care

Cathy Decker/Correspondent
The Mercer County YMCA school, located at 400 N. College Ave., Aledo, has been designated an emergency child care facility.

ALEDO — It’s been two months since Gov. JB Pritzker gave an executive order March 2020 for all nonessential individuals to “stay at home.” The COVID -19 pandemic has created some new phrases for everyone to get familiar with. Phrases like “the new normal” or “confirmed positive” or “essential business” and “social distancing” are among the many daily watchwords.

Restaurants, bars, small shops, libraries, schools, parks, churches and gymnasiums have been shut down and everyone learns more and more each day about the newest epidemic that has affected the entire globe.

Families have been particularly affected by the shutdown. Child care has changed. Schooling has changed.

In Mercer County (especially in Aledo) there are glimmers of hope. On Monday, May 11, Mayor Chris Hagloch issued a statement to partially open up parks, with some restrictions. Social distancing (staying six feet apart) and monitoring the number of people allowed in one area (10 individuals) are required. Using playground equipment is still off limits.

“The City Council was already briefed on this,” said Aledo city clerk Jarod Dale. The City Council will bring the park opening to a vote on Monday, May 18.

Child care effects

Mercer County Family YMCA has offered child care to the community for many years in Aledo at the YMCA Children’s School and at Sherrard, Winola and Aledo elementary schools.

Providing child care is one of the “essential businesses” defined by the state. Because of the “stay at home” declaration, the YMCA Children’s school lost all of its regular children and became an “emergency child care system.” According to Sarah Brown, CEO of the YMCA, the organization was notified about the new system and asked to apply for licensure.

There were 65 children served at the children’s school before the pandemic declaration. Though emergency licensure can be offered for up to 24 children, there are now 10. “We did get a couple of new families,” said Brown. “We’re only serving health care and essential workers as defined by the licensing agreement.” The Y elementary school programs lost 100 children once the schools were closed.

Another change involves the number of staff that needs to be in each room housing children for emergency daycare. One director and one aide are required, even if a room only has one child in it. The Y school has three rooms. “We cannot switch teachers around. That’s the mandate of the licensure.”

The YMCA school is located at 400 N. College Ave., Aledo.

Carla Ewing with the Mercer County Health Department says her office is not involved with regulating child care. “We provide guidance and state updates. We are not assessors,” she said.

Her agency does keep track of the number of COVID-19 positive tested individuals in the county (As of May 22 there are 13). They also are responsible for following up on the positives, including contact tracing, which involves contacting anyone who has been near a positive tested individual.