The Ontario government plans to reopen child care centres across the province on June 12.
Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce released details of the plan at a press conference this afternoon, noting that centres will have capacity limits, as well as more cleaning and screening measures.
“I want parents to know we will take every measure necessary to ensure the safety of their children,” Ford said at the press conference.
As we prepare to reopen it’s critical that supports are in place so people can return to work knowing their children will be cared for in a safe environment. This plan sets out strict protocols that must be followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. https://t.co/LLWepdHisO pic.twitter.com/0jBqseKwsZ
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) June 9, 2020
Centres will be required to adopt specific rules, including putting children and staff in groups of 10 or less day over day, having plans in place in case a child, parent, or staff member is exposed to COVID-19, screening staff and children prior to entering the child care setting.
In addition, other safety measures include keeping daily records of all attendees in order to support contact tracing, thorough cleaning of the child care settings (before opening, during the day, and after closing), removing certain toys that are likely to assist in the spread of the virus, allowing only essential visitors into the child care setting, and implementing drop-off and pick-up protocols in a way that facilitates physical distancing.
According to Lecce, the provincial government will be conducting inspections and any centre found in violation of these guidelines could be fined up to $1,000 per child per day.
“This plan was reviewed by the best public health and medical minds in Ontario, including doctors at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto,” Lecce said at the press conference.
Social media reaction has been somewhat mixed, with people wondering how child care centres will be able to adapt to the new protocols so quickly, and others wondering how they will get kids to practice safe social distancing.
In Ontario, restaurant patios and hair salons had more notice to open than licensed child care centres.
— Anna (@Camlin65) June 9, 2020
Can anyone make sense of this Ontario day care news? 10 people including staff? Who gets priority etc?
— Shaun Kelly (@sdk1696) June 9, 2020
While overnight camps are not permitted to operate in the summer of 2020, the provincial government is enabling summer day camp programs to reopen in areas that have been allowed to enter stage two, following strict health and safety guidelines developed in part by the Ministry of Health.
“Having children safely re-engage in learning, play and social activities with other children is of great benefit to their mental, emotional and behavioural development,” Dr. Ronald Cohn, President, and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) said in a press release.
“Children thrive when they are able to interact with other children. The reopening of child care centres is an important step forward for allowing children to be with their peers and enjoy activities outside of their home environment.
BREAKING: @fordnation moves to Stage 2 #COVID19 reopening on Friday – incl. churches, patios, hair salons, indoor malls, wading & swimming pools, camping, day camps, beaches – in most regions of Ontario, except Golden Horseshoe #ygk @CKWS_TV pic.twitter.com/uOTYFGqtGs
— Bill Hutchins (@CKWS_Hutch) June 8, 2020
To date, more than 1.5 million families in Ontario have benefited from the Support for Families program, where the province helped parents pay for the extra costs associated with school and child care closures during the COVID-19 outbreak, essentially by providing one-time payments of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for children with special needs up to 21 years of age.
As Ontario moves forward with the reopening, emergency child care will wind down effective June 26, 2020.
In addition, as the province enters stage two of reopening, a number of businesses, including restaurants, hair salons, and malls, will be allowed to reopen in some parts of Ontario, excluding Toronto and a number of other areas, as of June 12. Click here for more updates.