Covid outbreak at daycare, how to handle childcare

I received the dreadful call the day before Thanksgiving that there was a Covid outbreak at my daughter’s daycare. Her main teacher and several students tested positive. This article is about how to handle a Covid outbreak at daycare.

If you receive a call that your child’s daycare has positive cases of Covid, your initial reaction may be panic. Then you may experience worry and concern. After the rush of emotions, I had a lot of questions.

Would my daughter contract the virus? Would her teacher be okay after testing positive for Covid? What was I going to do about work without the help of daycare?

So many questions left unanswered. It felt surreal because we were eight months into the pandemic. Everything seemed fine and this was never a concern. All of that changed in an instant. I was not prepared for this moment.

So many parents find themselves in this predicament this year. For essential employees like healthcare workers and police officers, daycare can truly be a lifeline.

Some parents don’t have family members nearby or backup babysitters. What would they do after a Covid outbreak at daycare? At least I was teleworking.

For those finding that your daycare has closed due to a Covid outbreak, here is how I navigated through it. It wasn’t graceful, but I got through it.

Covid outbreak at daycare and closures

Initially, when my daughter’s daycare closed, they didn’t tell us when they would reopen. I’m sure they didn’t even know at the time of closing. After we got a call, the director posted a sign on the door that said we should text her the following week and ask about the reopening date.

Monitor child for symptoms

Initially, I was a little confused about incubation periods and the math behind that. Ive heard different theories, but the general consensus is that the incubation period, or the duration between exposure and initial onset of symptoms, is one to fourteen days.

We were trying to use daycare as sparingly as possible. So, my daughter last saw her teacher eight days before the teacher tested positive. This was within the one to fourteen day period.

I monitored my daughter for symptoms and she was as happy and healthy as could be during the fourteen day period. I didn’t think there was a need to get her tested because she didn’t have symptoms and neither did we. We also stayed home during this period.

Check into employer Covid leave policies

Under the CARES Act, there are provisions that allow employers to get credits for continuing to pay employees if they request leave for Covid related reasons. This would apply for those essential workers that don’t have backup childcare.

My employer allows 80 hours of Covid leave if you contract the virus and are unable to telework or if you are caring for someone with Covid. This also includes leave to care for children or adults if there is a facility shutdown.

I didn’t request the leave because I am teleworking. Although my work is a mixture of Court hearings, Zoom meetings, and some conferences, I was able to work in small increments and around my daughter’s midday nap. There were some calls I couldn’t move around, so listeners heard a shouting toddler in the background.

Alternative care options

Although I got through the closure in one piece, some of the daily chaos and stress could have been relieved with a little bit of help. I did create an account on, but since I’ve never used it and I personally don’t know anyone who has, I was hesitant to get a babysitter from the site.

For part of the daycare closure, we were still in that fourteen day incubation period, so I didn’t think it wise to ask for help in that period.

If you are in a bind for childcare and you have to work, here are some options.

  • Family members or relatives
  • Although I’ve never tried them, I am really curious to see how it works. I was reading that you can post a job for one-time care versus a consistent job.
  • Your state’s Covid resource helpline. They will have information for essential employee childcare and available facilities for your child.
  • Nextdoor app or other neighborhood social media pages. My neighborhood is on Nextdoor and I constantly see posts about childcare and babysitters.

Balancing work and childcare at home

The best advice I’ve heard is to simply let things go and take it day by day. My ideal work situation does not involve a toddler demanding my attention all day while I’m trying to complete eight hours of work.

I was the perfect mom before I had a child. My future kid never watched TV and only ate the healthiest of foods. In reality, I have to do what works in the situation we are in. The house does not need to be perfect and the dishes can wait.

Screen time may not be the best, but it keeps my daughter entertained while I work. During the daycare shutdown, I did an entire morning of telephonic Court hearings while she sat next to me watching Sesame Street. I’ve never been more grateful for Elmo.

I’ll admit, some days were really hard. Some days, I was barely hanging on by a thread by the time my husband got home. Thankfully, he would give me a break and I’d hang out in our bedroom alone to recharge, even if it was for thirty minutes.

Returning to daycare after Covid outbreak

The daycare reopened two weeks after the first positive case was reported. There was a total of seven cases, including two teachers and five children.

They did require a negative Covid test prior to returning, which seems like standard protocol. I got my daughter tested on a Friday and we got the negative result on Monday, just three days later.

To say that I am relieved is an understatement. Although I do have my toddler home with me for a majority of the week, to have one or two days of childcare makes a huge difference in my work productivity and my sanity.

Out of all the changes we have experienced during this pandemic, this was one of the hardest time periods for me. While all of this was happening, my mom, who is in another state, also tested positive for Covid, so my worrying was compounded.

Thankfully, my mom and everyone at the daycare is fine. If you are going through this situation, no matter how hard it is today, remember that it’s temporary.

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