MASON CITY, Iowa - Child care centers have provided such a vital service for families, especially for front line and essential workers who are working through this pandemic.
And Charlie Brown Preschool and Childcare's executive director Amber Morud and her staff know that it's crucial to be able to provide this service for families.
"We are the backbone of the workforce. If we close our doors among the five other centers in our community, our community would be in big trouble and our workforce would be in big trouble. We feel that it's our responsibility to help and do our part and be there for those people."
Throughout the whole pandemic, deep cleaning and sanitation has been key, as cleaning is down hourly at each location, and includes sanitizing and disinfecting highly touched areas like door knobs, light switches, tables and chairs. Deep cleaning is done three times a day and on weekends.
In addition, group times are kept short, are being spaced out during mealtime, and even getting outside for fresh air has been vital. Also, staffers and school-aged kids are wearing masks.
If there's been a known positive case, Morud says the center will observe video footage of that person to see if they were within 6 ft. of others within 15 minutes. If they are within that range, they are considered to be in close contact, and must quarantine. Also, the room that person was in will be closed for two weeks and deep cleaned and sanitized.
"If we have to shut down one specific room, at least it's not the whole center. That's the avenue we've been going down so far. We've been fortunate the last couple of weeks to not really too much affected by it."
Over the last couple of weeks, the center has been dealing with some positive cases. While she declined to share specific numbers, Morud mentioned that she's had more staffers test positive than kids. This information is key, as the center has to track how many staffers are available, and also keeping in mind student ratios to a room.
As of right now, due to higher prevalence of COVID-19 in the area, and to avoid overloading rooms, Morud says new family applications are being paused until it is safe to resume.
"We know there's a lot of families out there in need of childcare, and we have the spots available. It's just determining when it's safe to open the doors again."