Caleb Thompson, 8 months, twisted in his mother’s arms as his temperature was taken outside his day care.

Two beams of red light from the thermometer lit up Caleb’s face in the soft Tuesday morning light.

Caleb and his day care peers must have their temperatures taken before entering the First Baptist Church Day Care. His mother Kara Thompson’s temperature was also taken before bringing her son inside before heading for work.

This is one of the new regulations the Health and Human Services enacted to protect children and their families from catching or spreading COVID-19.

Before anyone who is deemed essential can enter a day care, they must have their temperatures taken. If their reading is above 100.4 degrees then the person can not enter, according to the HHS newest guidelines.

Children and adults may not enter a day care if they show symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or have a low-grade fever. They also cannot enter if they have, within the past 14 days, had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or traveled internationally to countries with widespread community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“If those are the regulations we have to follow to remain open, we’ll do it to stay open for these families,” day care assistant director Kim Gisler said.

Many of the families the day care services are first responders or in the health care industry, and those parents can’t work from home, Gisler said.

“If we were to close, they can’t be in the front line of that situation,” she said.

Gisler fears as the virus continues to spread, there will be a mass withdrawal of children and the day care will be forced to close. The day care is part of a nonprofit, so it relies on every student that was budgeted to keep its doors open.

If attendance drops too low, staff and hours will have to be cut, she said.

Gisler said the first concern for the day care staff is the safety of its children and helping its families.

“We stopped as much person-to-person contact as we can,” Gisler said. “I believe the most important thing we can do as a community is keep some sort of security for these children even if that’s to send them to day care every day like they have since they were 6 weeks old. It’s about a sense of security for these babies.”

The kids are resilient and have already adjusted to their “new normal,” Gisler said.

She said they will continue to do whatever they need to do to keep their doors open.

“We’re going to take it day-by-day, regulation by regulation and do what we can,” she said.

Without schools reopening, child care will be a problem, Dr. John McNeill, Victoria County’s public health authority, said during Wednesday’s daily news conference.

The Victoria school district announced Tuesday it would not reopen its campuses on Monday, and it will move to teaching its students online. That leaves its almost 14,000 students without a campus.

“The fact is that if the kids have to stay home, then mom and dad can’t work,” McNeill said. “Lots of families require two incomes.”

He said day care centers will remain open as long as they adhere to the Health and Human Services guidelines. Many facilities should also look at mirroring the day care process, such as checking temperatures before entering a confined space.

“We want everyone screening,” McNeill said.

William Oliver, YMCA of the Golden Crescent, said facilities will close Friday, and it will remain closed for two weeks. Despite the closure, its child care services will remain open.

“We’re just trying to be proactive and join with the other businesses in the community to do our part to flatten the curve,” Oliver said. “We want to be there for those that actually really need it.”

Child care registration fees have been waived and are open to first responders, medical staff and other parents who may need the service, Oliver said. It costs $83 a week for child care.

Children will have their temperatures checked before entering the building and will be kept in groups of 10 or fewer to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulations. It will also follow the Health and Human Services regulations to make sure families are safe.

“We’ll take as many as we can,” Oliver said. “We want to do our part.”

Monday through Friday before her 7:30 a.m. shift, Thompson drops her son off at the First Baptist Church Day Care. Thompson, who is a physical therapist assistant, said she can’t work from home, and if day care centers weren’t open she would be in trouble.

“It keeps (kids) in one place. Also a lot of the parents, like me, have to work,” she said. “I can keep working while he has a place to go.”

As COVID-19 spreads across the country, Thompson said she is afraid but having day care open is one less concern. She appreciates the updated regulations that keep her child safe.

“(Regulations) make sure it doesn’t spread through the kids,” she said.

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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