Grassie and Volinsky: Governor should close child care facilities

Action would help flatten Covid-19 curve

Over the last two weeks, states have started taking major steps to stop the spread of coronavirus, and New Hampshire is consistently a few steps behind in investing in the solutions that will flatten the curve. On Wednesday we learned that one of the people to test positive was a minor. In addition to closing schools, we should close most childcare centers.

We write this piece as the family services coordinator of the Rochester Childcare Center and an executive councilor and gubernatorial candidate whose wife, Amy, served on the board of the Merrimack Valley Childcare Center for many years.

The Rochester center closed as of Friday, March 20. We support that decision to close, but we need to have a plan for other childcare centers. As Amy and I await the arrival of our second grandchild this May, I’m mindful of the approximately 10,000 New Hampshire grandparents who are raising grandchildren. Many are doing so because of the opioid epidemic. We must protect these children and adults from community spread of coronavirus.

Last Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered most childcare centers to close, keeping a small number open to serve the most vulnerable children, the families of emergency personnel, medical staff, and other workers with roles critical to fighting the COVID-19 crisis. The governor’s order was in direct response to the calls of 24,000 child care workers who petitioned the state.

It’s a drastic move, but one that will be essential to containing the virus, and ultimately saving lives of children, parents, and caregivers. Other states, like Rhode Island, are issuing the same order. Governor Sununu should follow the lead of these governors.

Nationwide, childcare workers are in fear that their centers will facilitate the spread of the virus, and they want to shut down. Here in New Hampshire, Sununu is allowing child care centers to increase their capacity. Still, our governor should be setting the pace with swift action, and include among his now-daily executive orders one that provides support in organizing a small number of essential child care centers to stay open for the families who are most in need, and the children of first responders and healthcare workers. He could also ensure financial support for childcare centers across the state, including hazardous duty pay at time and a half for childcare workers who continue to look after our children.

Anne Grassie, family services coordinator at Rochester Child Care Center, is a former state representative. Andru Volinsky represents District 3 on the Executive Council and is a candidate for the Democratic party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Categories: Government, Opinion