Amer­i­cans brace for new life of no school

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gil­lian Flaccus and Jo­ce­lyn Gecker

Sev­eral par­ents face dread of find­ing child care so they can ef­fec­tively work dur­ing shut­downs.

Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans braced for the week ahead with no school for their chil­dren for many days to come, no clue how to ef­fec­tively do their jobs with­out child care, and a grow­ing sense of dread about how to stay safe and sane amid the re­lent­less spread of the coro­n­avirus.

Are play dates for the kids OK? How do you stock up on sup­plies when su­per- mar­ket shelves are bare? How do you pay the bills when your work hours have been cut? Is it safe to go to the gym? And how do you plan for the fu­ture with no idea what it holds?

“Today looks so dif­fer­ent from yes­ter­day, and you just don’t know what to­mor­row is go­ing to look like,” said Christie Bauer, a fam­ily pho­tog­ra­pher and mother of three school-age chil­dren in West Linn, Ore­gon.

Tens of mil­lions of stu­dents na­tion­wide have been sent home from school amid a wave of clos­ings that in­clude all of Ohio, Maryland, Ore­gon, Washington state, Florida and Illi­nois along with big-city dis­tricts like Los An­ge­les, San Fran­cisco and Washington, D.C. Some schools an­nounced they will close for three weeks, oth­ers for up to six.

The dis­rup­tions came as govern­ment and hospi­tal lead­ers took new mea­sures to con­tain an out­break that has sick­ened more than 150,000 peo­ple world­wide and killed about 5,800, with thou­sands of new cases be­ing con­firmed ev­ery day.

As the U.S. death toll climbed to 51 on Satur­day and in­fec­tions to­taled more than 2,100, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ex­panded a ban on travel to the U.S. from Europe, adding Britain and Ireland to the list, and hos­pi­tals worked to ex­pand bed ca­pac­ity and staffing to keep from be­com­ing over­whelmed as the caseload mounts.

“We have not reached our peak,” said Dr. An­thony Fauci of the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health. “We will see more cases, and we will see more suf­fer­ing and death.”

Many work­ing par­ents are scram­bling to find child care, even if they are be­ing al­lowed to work from home. The child care needs are es­pe­cially dire for the le­gions of nurses, hospi­tal and health care work­ers across the coun­try who need to be on the job to deal with the cri­sis.

Gov­er­nors drew up emer­gency plans to find child care for front-line med­i­cal work­ers and first re­spon­ders, equat­ing it to a wartime ef­fort.

“I would put this as a World War II-ca­pac­ity day­care for our pub­lic health work­ers be­cause we’re go­ing to need ev­ery sin­gle body we can get,” said Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown.

Par­ents des­per­ate to get to work with schools closed have jumped on so­cial me­dia boards to seek child care or to ex­change tips about avail­able babysit­ters.

Seat­tle res­i­dent John Per­sak set up a Face­book group last week for par­ents with chil­dren at home be­cause of school clos­ings. The group ex­ploded to nearly 3,000 mem­bers.

“We’re get­ting about five re­quests a minute at this point,” said Per­sak, a fa­ther and crane op­er­a­tor at the port of Seat­tle, who said his work hours have been cur­tailed for weeks by the coro­n­avirus out­break, which is af­fect­ing cargo de­liv­er­ies from Asia.

In Maryland, where schools will be clos­ing from Mon­day through March 27, par­ents are call­ing up their kids’ former nan­nies and babysit­ters.

“They are des­per­ate,” said Ellen Olsen, who has been a nanny for more than 11 years and co-man­ages a Face­book group that con­nects par­ents, nan­nies and sit­ters in Maryland. “We’ve seen a lot of par­ents post­ing, ‘Hey, schools are closed, but I still have to work.’”

Olsen takes care of two ba­bies, but start­ing next week, two girls ages 9 and 11 whom she once watched will also be un­der her su­per­vi­sion. Olsen said the girls’ par­ents are doc­tors and asked for her help af­ter school was can­celed.

New York Mayor Bill de Bla­sio de­fied mount­ing pres­sure to close the na­tion’s big­gest school sys­tem, say­ing shut­ting the schools for the more than 1.1 mil­lion stu­dents could ham­per the city’s abil­ity to re­spond to the cri­sis by forc­ing par­ents who are first re­spon­ders and health­care work­ers to cast about for child care or stay home.

“Many, many par­ents want us to keep schools open,” he said. “De­pend on it. Need it. Don’t have an­other op­tion.”

The cas­cade of clos­ings up­ended week­end rou­tines for count­less moth­ers and fa­thers. Lit­tle League and other sports were can­celed. Parks were closed. Play dates were up­ended. The size of the crowd at a pub­lic li­brary in sub­ur­ban Port­land ri­valed that of the neigh­bor­hood Costco as par­ents scram­bled to stock­pile books for chil­dren.


A line of peo­ple wait­ing to buy sup­plies amid coro­n­avirus fears snakes through a park­ing lot at a Costco in Las Ve­gas on Satur­day.


Colorado Na­tional Guard med­i­cal per­son­nel per­form a coro­n­avirus test on a motorist at a drive-through test­ing site out­side the Den­ver Coli­seum on Satur­day.

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