Since Gov. Gregg Abbot declared a state of emergency last week, businesses and services have shortened hours or closed. Pre-school day care, however, will remain open, Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston told the Herald-Press Thursday.
Child care is an essential service, Johnston said. “I'm sure they will do what they need to do to stay within Centers for Disease Control criteria," he said.
Westwood Independent School District has suspended normal school operations indefinitely. Palestine schools also have suspended operations, but could resume them the first week of April.
Palestine Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press pre-school day cares, which typically take children ages four and under, pose different challenges than do schools.
“Many of our medical professionals and first-responders depend upon day care to go to work,” he said. “If we lose day care, we could potentially lose much needed personnel.”
The city and county have teamed with area child care providers to ensure most children of first-responders, police, and medical workers are not in the same center. That minimize chances of large numbers of essential service workers becoming affected by the pandemic at once.
Presley said the state of emergency probably will increase the need for child-care workers; but hiring qualified people is not easy. Background checks would probably delay such hires, and community members who want to start a day care would need to be licensed by the state.
The Palestine YMCA, which closed its fitness operation Thursday, remains open for child care. Director Cindy Piersol told the Herald-Press the YMCA day care will follow Texas Health and Human Services guidelines.
“Some people have no where else to go,” Piersol said. “The children need to be cared for, fed, loved, and given a sense or normalcy.
“We are here for our community, no matter what.”
Criteria for Anderson County child-care centers include not allowing parents or visitors past the lobby, checking children's temperatures before allowing them in, and keeping out any child with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees.
Day care workers also must watch for signs of coronavirus, such as a runny nose or persistent dry cough.
Cleaning and sterilization at all day cares have been ramped up in response to the pandemic.
Lisa Prickett, director of Palestine's Candy Cane Day Care, said her center has always been sterilized, but staff is cleaning even more now.
“We are going to keep up with everything the CDC says,” Prickett told the Herald-Press. “Unless we're ordered otherwise, we're going to stay open. Without us, a lot of families, with children and without, would be greatly affected.”