Mass. Officials Defend New Regulations Ahead of Day Care Centers and Summer Camps Reopening

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Massachusetts officials revealed more information on phase 2 the state's reopening process Wednesday, discussing the health and safety requirements to open child care centers and summer camps.

"I know that there is a lot of anxiety in the field, and I assure you that our approach is meant to be supportive, not punitive," said Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy.

The new minimum requirements have come under fire from providers and parents alike.

"How do we really manage all of the new requirements?" wondered Christopher Vuk, who owns five day care centers in Cambridge.

Vuk, who also runs the advocacy group Daycares United, says some in the industry may have to cut enrollment by 20% to comply with physical distancing requirements.

"That'll be very damaging to their ability to make money and survive," he said.

"We are relying on the expertise of the professionals in the field to redesign their approaches to early education and care, adjust their daily activities, lay out their spaces to encourage children to remain six feet apart, while still enjoying their days," Aigner-Treworgy said.

Gov. Charlie Baker released more details Wednesday about what we can expect in phase 2 of Massachusetts' reopening.

Those adjustments include single points of entry, daily health checks on children and staff, and drop-offs on a staggered schedule.

"More tools, templates and instructions will be released in the coming days," said Aigner-Treworgy. "All providers may decide when they want to reopen, when they're ready to implement all the health and safety requirements we've laid out."

Vuk thinks the spacing and square footage requirements may be untenable for some.

"We don't have a lot of extra space to be able to do that, so that provides a distinct challenge for us to adhere to these new policies which are outside our ability to control," he said. "We can't go and knock down walls within our building within a matter of days to reopen.

"We understand that social distancing is not easy with infants and toddlers," said Aigner-Treworgy. "There will be many challenges in operationalizing these requirements."

Residential and overnight camps will not be allowed until at least phase 3.

In phase 2, day camps will be required to increase health services staff, eliminate field trips, and require campers and counselors to remain in the same groups.

"Staff will not be able to move between groups either during the day, or from day to day, unless needed to provide specific supervision on specialized activities such as swimming," said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders.

And now that family members can once again visit residents in long-term care facilities, Gov. Charlie Baker confirmed with a smile that he will soon be reunited with his nearly 92-year-old father.

"I am going to go see my dad," Baker said.

"Soon?" asked a reporter, to which Baker responded with a laugh, "Yes, soon, yeah."

Officials say the child care requirements will likely be in place throughout the summer, and emergency child care will continue to help with the transition.

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