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How to keep daycare safe amid coronavirus: YMCA shares tips on social distancing using cones and hula hoops

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 5/11/2020 By Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland.com
a person sitting on a bench with a dog on a leash: Babysitter Lily Kroese, 15, helps Nolan Mazeffa, 2, with his drawing, while Nolan's sister Madison, 5, and mother Lauren Copeland, work on theirs. Residents in the Westwood Farms development in Strongsville, Ohio, are taking to the sidewalks everyday with chalk to draw characters from the latest books they have been reading. © David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com/David Petkiewicz/cleveland.com/TNS Babysitter Lily Kroese, 15, helps Nolan Mazeffa, 2, with his drawing, while Nolan's sister Madison, 5, and mother Lauren Copeland, work on theirs. Residents in the Westwood Farms development in Strongsville, Ohio, are taking to the sidewalks everyday with chalk to draw characters from the latest books they have been reading.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Keeping little kids apart is tough. Having them wear masks seems impossible. But social distancing is necessary to combat the spread of the coronavirus and reopen the state.

That’s why Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday he’s delaying a decision on reopening daycares because he wants to get to set the proper regulations.

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland said it’s figured out some solutions to keep kids safe in its pandemic childcare centers. The organization has devised strategies to help children stay far apart and keep from spreading germs to each other -- and so, each other’s families and neighborhoods.

“We know we can keep young people safe,” said Ana Thomas, vice president of youth development for the Greater Cleveland YMCA.

Teachers are using visual cues to help children social distance. Tools like hula hoops, dots on the floor and cones help children remember where to keep their bodies. Every child has their own set of markers, glue and crayons, so little hands don’t dip into a big box of shared art supplies.

Currently, YMCA childcare facilities are open to the children of essential workers, including doctors, nurses and grocery store clerks, Thomas said. Depending on the week, there are six to nine Y facilities open across Greater Cleveland, serving about 50 3- to 12-year-olds. To put it in perspective, before the pandemic the Y served 850 children a day. Kids bring their own lunches, though breakfast and snacks are provided.

During the pandemic, the Y has decreased group sizes and increased cleaning and sanitations. Staffers wear masks. These pandemic daycare centers are allowed to have six children per classroom.

The Y is “really thinking through how we’re doing this safely. We’re really learned how to make sure that every young person is safe,” Thomas said.

DeWine on Monday stressed the difficulty of reopening childcare center.

“The science is pretty clear... When you take young children -- social distancing is rather difficult for a 2-year-old or a 3-year-old or a 4-year-old -- and put them into a group setting, the danger is not so much for those kids themselves,” DeWine said.

The danger is for their family members and other adults in their lives.

“We’ve got to do it right... so we minimize that danger,” DeWine said, “maximize the safety for the community and those families.”

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