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COVID-19 cases among children force Washington childcare centers to temporarily close

A childcare center advocacy group points to the spread of the delta variant among children as the reason.

SEATTLE — An increase in COVID-19 cases among children is becoming apparent in childcare centers in Washington state as the delta variant continues to spread.

Several childcare providers have temporarily closed due to COVID-19 cases among children, according to the Washington Childcare Centers Association (WCCA).

"If a child comes up positive, which is way more likely now with this delta strain - it was almost unheard of at least in Washington for a child to come up positive with the original strain - but with delta, we're hearing it more and more," said Julie Schroath, communications coordinator at WCCA.

Schroath said she knows of at least 10 childcare centers in Washington that have closed short-term due to COVID-positive cases among children.

"When people go back to work, they're just not going to be able to find childcare," Schroath said.

The possibility for such temporary closures due to COVID-19 impacts parents like Anne Shukla, who said she feels fortunate her 4-year-old daughter is enrolled in childcare.

"It's a lot for parents to worry about these little people and keep them safe and protected," Shukla said.

Shukla said she is unaware of any closures relating to COVID-19 at the childcare that her daughter is enrolled in, but the thought of reverting back to closures concerns her.

"It's incredibly stressful to have to go back to that. It's worrisome," Shukla said.

While the burden of temporary closures impacts working parents, it could be financially dire for childcare centers that are already strained by lack of staff due to the pandemic.

Schroath said the solution could be retaining staff during a temporary child care shutdown, which is not always possible for childcare centers that rely on state subsides, according to Schroath.

"If they're able to keep their staff on payroll, I think the state should be allowing them to bill like they do for private pay families," she said.

COVID-19 safety guidelines set by the Washington Department of Health broadly state that childcare centers should consider 14-day closures if the center experiences a rapid increase and prolonged transmission of COVID-19, and if the childcare cannot function due to lack of teaching and support staff.

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