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INDIANAPOLIS — This week, Indiana reported a record number of students have tested positive for COVID-19. It’s caused some school districts to go back online temporarily. 

However, this latest surge is also having a big impact on childcare for children who aren’t old enough to go to school. “We have never seen anything like this,” said Lisa Bowling, Co-Director of Daystar Childcare. There are no students attending the Daystar Childcare facility right now. Every student is at home in quarantine. “This has been the only big closure we have had since COVID-19 started,” Bowling said.

Co-directors Lisa Bowling and Laura Dyke say it started when they came back from the winter holiday in early January. They had to close one classroom on the first day back and then more teachers got sick. “Within a week and a half we had to close down the whole center it just spread very rapidly,” Dyke said.

The directors say the impact has been felt by everyone involved. Children have had their routines altered, and parents are suddenly having to find someone else to watch their kids. “How easily can you work from home if you have a 0- to 4-year-old not very well,” Dyke said.

“Some parents can’t work from home and so those have their own challenges as well,” Bowling said. Public health experts say the struggle comes because kids under 5 can’t get vaccinated. 

“All of those kids are vulnerable so they can help spread it, they can get COVID-19 as well,” said Shandy Dearth with the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. “So they just don’t have the protection that some of the older population has at this point.”

Dearth said because of that, guidelines for daycares have remained at the 14-day quarantine period. That’s despite it being reduced down to 5 days for everyone else and it’s been frustrating for parents. “We understand they’ve reduced it for most of the general population,” Dearth said. “But we need to go ahead and keep it at that longer time period for the little kids since they can’t wear a mask consistently.”

Dearth said she understands how difficult this has been for parents and the daycares themselves but maintained that it’s necessary to keep everyone safe. “They got to protect their staff. They could start closing the same way we’ve seen some of the K-12 schools have to close if they don’t have the staff to operate,” Dearth said. “They’ll have to close the daycare as well.”

Daystar is expecting most quarantined kids to be back on Wednesday. The directors said while it’s been hard on parents, the ones most affected during this surge are the kids. “Taking a week or two weeks off of school it’s a long time for their lifetime,” Dyke said.

Dearth said there is a vaccine for that younger age group, but it probably won’t go before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until later this year. However, she does expect new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on daycares in the near future.