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As cases of coronavirus continue to spread in Mid-Missouri, most of California's child care centers are open and are taking preventative measures to ensure their children's and employees' safety.

Child care is considered an essential business during the COVID-19 outbreak, along with things like health care, transportation and manufacturing. As of Monday of this week, there were more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 confirmed across the state, leading to further extensions to area school closures and social distancing recommendations.

St. Paul's Childcare Center, Little Pintos Preschool, California Kids Learning Center and Daycare and Shining Stars are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Local daycares are staying informed, conducting daily health checks and encouraging parents to have a plan in the event their child gets sick. Guidelines also deem it important to ensure sick children are isolated and supervised until a parent can pick them up and perform routine environmental cleaning.

Following existing guidelines to reduce the spread of respiratory illness among children and staff also is an important part of the playbook, including frequent handwashing and cough etiquette, stocking sinks and restrooms with soap and paper towels, having a supply of hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol, and placing boxes of tissue and waste containers throughout the child care facility.

"We're taking more precaution in things as far as anyone who drops off or picks up gets their temperature taken at the door, the kids as well are getting their temperature taken three times a day," Tabatha Oswald, director and owner of Little Pintos Preschool, said. "We're following the CDC guidelines."

These childcare centers believe in taking care of their children to the best of their ability and being there for the parents who rely on them, Anny Wolford, director at California Kids Learning Center, said.

"We will stay open until we are mandated to close," Wolford said. "I have families that I have to provide for. They have jobs to do and that's my responsibility to take care of their kiddos."

Though these times can be a little stressful for us all, St. Paul's Childcare Center is doing its best to make sure children are continuing to have fun.

"Since it's been nice outside, we've been doing a lot of activities outside rather than inside," Sara Hagemeyer-Turner, director of St. Paul's Childcare Center, said. "And we also have done a lot of pictures for the nursing home residents. Someone comes by and picks them up and delivers them to the residents. And then, last week we did go to (California Care Center) and we colored on their windows some pretty pictures, we were allowed to do that. We hope to do it again this week or in the future."

COVID-19 has put a lot of stress on individuals and businesses and these centers know that, so they're doing everything they can to provide for their parents, children and staff members and being as accommodating as possible. Shining Stars is another daycare provider in this group. Shining Stars director Melissa Vernon said though social distancing measures have led to some typical attendees staying home with their parents instead, other challenges keep daycare providers light on their feet.

"We do have some parents that have opted to keep their kids home — right now, we're running at half capacity," Vernon said. "Per day, we normally have 20 kids, but right now we're running at 10. So half of our kids are being kept home with their parents, and that's okay, too. We did lose one staff member because of (COVID-19), (and) we've had two staff members step back because one has an elderly father she takes care of and another because she has a full-time job, so she's giving any hours to other staff who might want it."

For more information about the guidelines these facilities are following, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html or health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/.

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