Here’s how many coronavirus cases have been linked with Bay Area child care centers | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

Every few weeks, Caryn Cardello and her partner contemplate bringing their son back to day care.

They are stressed and overwhelmed with parenting alone after months of shelter-in-place, and they want their 2½-year-old to have the opportunity for normal social development.

But when the San Francisco couple asked their pediatrician about the coronavirus risks, the doctor did not give a clear recommendation.

“We just wanted someone to tell us what the risk was,” Cardello said. “We don’t know what the hell to do.”

Like Cardello, most Bay Area parents are confused, scared and stressed about the lack of clarity surrounding the risk of coronavirus transmission in day care facilities.

More than 320 coronavirus cases associated with day care facilities have been confirmed in the Bay Area, according to Sept. 3 data from the California Department of Social Services. More than 6,000 day care providers are open in the region, meaning that on average, there have been about five cases reported for every 100 facilities.

But major unknowns remain. Because the state data does not indicate exactly how many children and staff are associated with each day care facility, there appears to be no way to calculate the rate of coronavirus transmission. Without that figure, it is impossible to compare the risk in a child care facility with the overall rate of transmission.

The department “does not make public health determinations as to the risk associated with the number or percentage of child-care related (coronavirus) cases,” wrote Scott Murray, a spokesperson for the department, in an email. Instead, the department reports the data “to help parents and caregivers make informed decisions,” he added.

The state data do not necessarily reflect transmission within the centers themselves, but rather the reported total of cases associated with children, parents, staff members and other adults at day care facilities or within children’s families, multiple experts said.

Some lower-income and essential-worker parents have had no choice but to enroll their children in day care. Some work-from-home parents have decided the risk is low enough to be worth the benefits. And countless others like Cardello, especially work-from-home mothers, are overwhelmed by the competing demands of their jobs, children and personal lives but remain too scared to choose day care.

They all want to know: “Is it safe?”

Most experts agree that the risk of coronavirus transmission is comparatively low for children old enough for day care, and many researchers and health care providers with access to the most recent information have decided to send their own children back to day care.

But the answer to that question is mostly a personal decision, experts and day care providers agreed.

In San Francisco, day care facilities are about as safe as they can be, said Gina Fromer, the chief executive officer of the Children’s Council of San Francisco, a nonprofit that supports child care providers and helps parents find care. She feels confident that the state and county safety rules greatly minimize any transmission risk.

A student wears a mask while building a marble racetrack with a fellow Dinosaur pre-kindergarten class student at Saint Vincent’s.

The number of affected child care sites “is still relatively small,” Fromer said.

Kate Shaheed, the director of St. Vincent’s Day Home, one of Oakland’s oldest day care providers, agreed. Despite hosting more than 100 children, St. Vincent’s has not experienced any coronavirus cases.

“But it’s a choice. It’s a hard choice,” Fromer said about parents’ deciding whether to enroll their kids in day care. “There is some risk there, and we just cannot say there is not,” she added.

About 30 of the cases associated with day care facilities in the Bay Area were reported in the last two weeks, according to the data.

Santa Clara County tops the list of Bay Area counties with 94 confirmed cases at child care facilities, an average of five cases per 100 facilities, and Alameda follows with 49 and an average of three cases for every 100 facilities, according to state data released Sept. 3.

In Santa Clara County, at least 30% of the confirmed cases were among children as of Aug. 30. The county is one of the few in the region with enough positive tests among children (29 total as of Aug. 30 data) to report them without violating health privacy guidelines.

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