Watching the Numbers

When is it safe for my child to return to preschool?

  • Watching the Numbers

    • September 26, 2020
    • Posted By : Mike Harding
    • 0 Comment

    When is it safe for my child to return to preschool?

    When talking with parents about their readiness to return their child to school, by far the most common response I hear is “we’re watching the numbers to decide when it’s safe to return…”.

    Being located in the Silicon Valley, the parents in our school community are well educated professionals so this comment confounds me.

    As an owner of multiple Montessori preschools I assure you that no one has been watching the numbers more closely since early March than our leadership team.

    What I have come to realize is that the sources of the information parents are relying on when “watching the numbers” rarely reflect the actual level of risk families of young children face in returning to school.

    To help educate parents at ours and other Centers on the facts regarding “the numbers” we are going begin to publish regular updates on the number of confirmed cases in Child Care Centers with a focus on Santa Clara County where our Centers are located.

    The state and county Shelter-in-Place mandates severely impacted our enrollment initially by limiting childcare to essential workers and then with the social distancing and limitations on the number of children included in a cohort or pod.

    More recently, the major factor impacting our Child Care Centers is the refusal of the public school teachers to return to work – citing the threat of infection as the primary reason (here locally, at least).

    The media at both the national and local levels rarely seems to question this position.

    The time has come for parents to get information that the media – for whatever reason – does not care to report.

    Data Published by the State of California

    Why the media chooses not to report this information is a mystery to many.  It certainly is NOT because the data isn’t available.  Its’ right on the California State website for anyone who cares to look at it:  click here and scroll down to COVID-19 Positive Cases in Child Care Facilities

    For those of you who find reading these things tedious, allow me to provide some highlights:

    Page 1 provides background information on how the data was compiled and how it is reflected in the report.

    Pages 2 & 3 contain a chart listing the number of licensed childcare centers currently open for business in each county in California.  The chart is divided between Child Care Centers like ours and Family Child Care Homes which provide child care services from the owner’s residence.

    As of Sept 24th, 2020 there were 9,604 Child Care Centers open for business and 23,912 Homes for a combined total of 33,516 licensed providers in California.

    Pages 4 & 5 contain a chart showing the number of COVID-19 cases amongst children, staff and parents in each type of provider (Center & Home) in each county across the state.  A summary row showing Statewide totals for each of the categories is also included.

    For the purposes of this blog, I am going to focus on our county, Santa Clara which according to Google has a current population of 1.928 million people.

    The State chart shows 26 confirmed COVID-19 cases among Staff members in Child Care Centers in Santa Clara county and 22 confirmed cases among Children.

    Citing privacy reasons that are explained in the beginning of the chart, the state obscures the exact number of Parents and Other* with confirmed cases but does provide a total 60 cases across all four categories: Staff, Parent, Child and Other.

    (*) Other captures unknown and any family members other than parent and authorized representative, staff and child in the Child Care Centers and Family Child Care Homes

    It’s important to note that the state explains that they obscure these numbers specifically because they are SO LOW**.

    (**) Values of less than eleven (11) are masked (shown as <11) and values of eleven (11) or more that could be used to identify masked values are also masked (shown as **) in accordance with de-identification guidelines.  True values of zero appear as “0”.

    If we take the 60 total in the country, subtract the 26 Staff and the 22 Children that leaves 12 cases to be divided between Parents and Other.  From the (**) explanation above, we can quickly deduce that there are 11 Parents and 1 Other confirmed COVID-19 cases.

    Low Risk Environment

    Let’s for a moment return to the number of child care centers currently open in Santa Clara County which is 556.  By applying simple math, you can quickly calculate the following:

    26 Staff / 556 open centers =  4.7% of open centers have had a Staff member with a confirmed case of COVID-19
    22 Children / 556 open centers = 3.9% of open centers have had a Child with a confirmed case of COVID-19
    11 Parents / 556 open centers = 1.9% of open centers have had a Parent with a confirmed case of COVID-19
    1 Other / 556 open centers = 0.18% of open centers have had an Other with a confirmed case of COVID-19
    60 total confirmed cases / 556 open centers = 10.8% of open centers have had a confirmed case of COVID-19

    Now for comparison, lets flip this over:

    95.3% of open centers have had ZERO confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst their Staff 96.1% of open centers have had ZERO confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst their Children
    98.1% of open centers have had ZERO confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst their Parents
    99.8% of open centers have had ZERO confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst their Others
    89.2% of open centers have had ZERO confirmed COVID-19 cases

    Since the State does not report confirmed cases by center, all of the calculations above change significantly if there were multiple confirmed cases in any single center.  Which means that the likelihood of a confirmed case is even LOWER than what is reflected above.

    Children are Safe at School

    Our discussion to this point has been focused solely on confirmed cases.

    Next let’s examine mortality rates in children.

    According to a report published on September 24th, 2020 on the California Department of Public Health website, the number of children aged 0-5 who have died with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is exactly ZERO.

    According to the same report, the number of children in the state of California aged 5-17 who have died with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is 2 (two).  No details are provided regarding the presence of co-morbidities or the exact cause of death in these two cases.

    According to the Santa Clara County COVID-19 Demographics Dashboard no one under the age of 19 has died from COVID-19 in Santa Clara County.

    Multiple health authorities have stated publicly that there is no evidence of children transmitting the disease to adults. We have posted examples on our website, including video of Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara Public Health Office, addressing the role of young children transmitting COVID-19.

    For parents who are following the numbers, it’s time to ask yourself: what number are you waiting to see before allowing your child to return to school?  Zero will never happen – even once there is a vaccine.  We know this since there has been a flu vaccine for years and people still catch the flu.

    Preschools and childcare centers are heavily regulated by the State and over the years have learned how to prevent the flu and other infectious diseases like the common cold out of necessity.

    With the extra precautions put in place in order to be allowed by the County to resume operations, there are few places where your child has LESS potential exposure to COVID-19 than a well-run preschool.

    Please don’t just take my word for it – here’s an article on the CDC website titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall” detailing why its so important that children are in school, why schools pose a low risk of COVID-19 infection and the impact on children who do not return to school.

    The time is here for parents to understand that returning to school is VERY low risk for preschool children, staff and parents alike.

    It is also time for everyone to understand that with few exceptions, the Paycheck Protection Program loans provided by the Federal government are starting to run out for all childcare centers.

    If children don’t begin returning to school soon, the numbers parents will see rapidly increasing will be the number of childcare centers closing and the cost of tuition at those fortunate enough to remain open.