In the equation of returning to normal amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kael Llanos Duran, four years old, is the most “happy” in his family.
After more than three months of confinement, the child left the care center for the first time that in past years has protected him in what his parents work, Little, in Hato Rey.
Despite the usual shyness of infants, Kael assured that his contentment was due to the fact that “At any minute I’m going to see my class friends”.
His mother, however, was concerned when this Thursday morning she left him in the care of the teachers at the children’s center.
Camille Duran He told Primera Hora that he faces the same doubts as many parents in the midst of this coronavirus emergency.
“Kael has been a student of Pequeques for several years now and, therefore, given the circumstance of the coronavirus and others, because he has been at home all the time and he really needs to be in another ‘environment’ that is not at home. The only place I trust is really here in Pequeques, because the teachers and all the staff are excellent and, for that reason and within everything, to prepare ourselves (for the face-to-face return to work) and others, we made the decision, which has been strong, to bring it here “he explained.
He pointed out that the situation at home was “quite difficult” due to the confinement the minor was facing. And, although she pointed out that her “heart wants to go out”, her family decided that it was best for her to start the care last Wednesday, the day they were already authorized to operate these centers by executive order of Governor Wanda Vázquez.
The woman explained that at home “his mood is not the same and he gets tired … Boredom, furthermore, at the stage that he is in, which is four years old, requires that encouragement and that education that, at home, although dad and mom want, there needs to be another person and other children ”.
Kael came to her care around 9:00 am. Her face was covered with a “face shield”. He was restless to enter and asked his mother every moment if he could come in now. However, the new protocol requires that both the child and the mother take their temperature, as well as that their hands and feet be disinfected. Durán also had to wear a special gown, register his child electronically, and answer several questions about possible symptoms.
The mother had to say goodbye at the gate. The child, then, went to the entrance of the structure, where he took off the shoes he brought from home and put on some that his parents designated for him to use only in care. He washed his hands and began to play with three other children who were in the center.
A challenge to operate
Pequeques was one of the close to 20 childcare centers, out of the 559 registered on the island before the pandemic, which decided to start operations from the first day they were authorized, reported the president of the Association of Care Centers, Vilmarie Esquilin.
For the corporation, opening up has been a challenge. It is that they start operations in the middle of a rationing of drinking water, under a pandemic in which a lot of hygiene is required and with the fear that parents feel of taking their children to care, as summarized by the director of Pequeques, Keyza rivera.
The care has a capacity to serve 50 infants, but its enrollment in this new start is limited to four children.
Rivera accepted that many families have informed them that they would not bring their children in August or perhaps by the beginning of 2021. This situation, he acknowledged, will affect them economically.
“These are new processes and families are still afraid of taking their children out of their homes and enrolling them in childcare centers. But, we have families who trust the processes and have to be going back to work. So in Pequeques we have all the safe, clean areas, for a safe and appropriate restart for all our children, ”he said.
In the midst of all the care they have, Rivera recognized that one of the main difficulties is getting children to have fun with physical distancing. For this, they have programmed individualized games and psychological help to face this new emergency.
“How difficult it is to ensure physical distancing in children! It is very difficult, because we work with a physical approach. But, in these times, we have developed strategies so that they can play perhaps more individually, maintaining that required distance of six feet. We have several activities also focused on their emotional development, because we come from several months locked up at home, kept at home, telling children that there is a virus on the street, but here we are prepared to give those emotional tools to our children so that they feel safe, confident and that this is not permanent, this is going to happen ”, he said.
Parents are afraid
Two owners of infant centers, whose businesses are still closed, agreed with Rivera that parents are very afraid of taking their children to care. They pointed out that the polls suggest that it would be in August that the little ones would begin to arrive.
Before such a framework, Neyza Barreto informed that his care Chiquimundi, in Guaynabo, will begin operations on July 20.
“It is the parents who – in the end – determine the opening date,” he said.
Olga O’Neill, of the centers Peek a boo, also in Guaynabo, stated that he will open his two careers next Monday, because it was not cost effective to operate in the middle of a long weekend on the occasion of the Independence Day of the United States.
He acknowledged that the number of children “has decreased” considerably. He indicated that one of its centers has a capacity for 120 children and another for 55, but that between them it will receive “less than 20 children.”
“For me it is not cost effective, but it is a way of rehearsing, seeing how it runs. In August the parents said yes or yes (they take their children to care) ”, he explained.
The statements offered by these owners coincide with the surveys carried out by the Association, regarding the fact that the children would begin to return next August.
Esquilín explained that it is the family Department the entity that has established the guidelines to operate and is also the agency that will provide financial assistance for the success of operations in the midst of this public health emergency.
He noted, however, that for the centers the economic situation is “unsustainable.” He said that this week they have notified him of at least five care that will not operate again.
“Economically, this business is not going to be sustainable”, he exposed.
Among the problems they face is that they have to operate with 30% less than their enrollment capacity and that expenses have increased. Personally, Esquilín, owner of the Esquilín Mangual de Caguas Children’s Center, determined to increase the monthly payment.
“What we want is that, if we open, that we open responsibly and with the security of guaranteeing that this child does not get sick. We are working with families and we have to ensure that the guidelines are followed, but parents also have to help us. Children with signs of colds and mucus will not enter. So they take him to the doctor and the doctor gives a certificate that I can admit him. That specialist is not helping me, my father is not helping me. They cannot bring children with any symptoms of illness. That is the recommendation ”, concluded the official.
Primera Hora requested an interview with the Secretary of the Family, Orlando Lopez, on the situation of the care centers. This was not available, because he was meeting in La Fortaleza.