Americans brace for new life of no school
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.