Facilities offering child care in New Brunswick reopened at a brisk pace this week.
Premier Blaine Higgs, speaking at a COVID-19 briefing in Fredericton, said 50 per cent of licensed daycares in New Brunswick reopened for business on Tuesday, the first day they were allowed to do so since being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Higgs also said he expects that number to reach 80 per cent by June 1.
“The reopening of child care facilities is a key element in enabling people to return to work,” said Higgs, in a government release following the briefing. “New Brunswickers must be able to return to work if we are going to reopen our province.”
New protocols have been put in place to help ensure the safety of children and staff at daycares.
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- Parents are required to drop off their children to staff outside the doors of the facilities. In most cases, parents are no longer allowed to enter.
- Children and staff are pre-screened before entering. This includes temperature checks and answering COVID-19 related questions to reveal potential symptoms.
- Everyone is also encouraged to exercise physical distancing where possible.
Shilo Boucher, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Saint John, said the Y’s child care locations throughout the region handle about 700 children, including 200 full-day spaces. Only around half of their clients have committed to returning so far.
She said staff have been working diligently over several weeks to prepare for reopening.
Boucher said one of the biggest challenges has been re-imagining the use of group toys.
“We can’t have them in water tables any longer, or playing in sand together,” Boucher said Tuesday. “It’s just not safe. So having to take the different toys and put them into their own little boxes so each child has their set play toys that they’re going to use.
“It’s just, it’s completely different for us.”
Boucher said the changes have required staff to be retrained and “be a little more creative” in organizing activities.
Higgs announced Wednesday child care staff are among front-line workers eligible for a wage top-up in recognition of their work during the pandemic.
“Our province has sent a written request to the federal finance minister outlining a program to provide a monthly top-up of approximately $500 for 16 weeks for front-line workers in a number of sectors,” Higgs said.
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