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For Release: December 16, 2020

Contact: Penelope Whitney, CSCCE Communications Director, penelopewhitney@berkeley.edu

Prioritize Early Childhood Educators for the COVID-19 Vaccine

Governors and their staff must ensure the health and safety of the child care workforce by including them at the top of the COVID-19 vaccine list (after health care workers), the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) at UC Berkeley announced today. Though most state, territory, and local government lists include school teachers, many are leaving child care workers out.

Early childhood educators are essential workers, providing care for the children and families of health care and grocery store workers, first responders, and many more. Unlike public schools, most child care centers have remained open during the pandemic, too often without being provided the safety supplies they need while earning poverty-level wages. “This is unconscionable,” said CSCCE Director Lea Austin, “given that nearly 40 percent of the child care workforce are women of color. The elevated risk of COVID-19 that they and their family members face should not be minimized.”

Many child care providers have reported difficulty accessing and/or affording personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation supplies that are essential to the strong preventative measures called for by health experts. One national report states that infection rates within child care settings were higher among American Indian/Alaskan Native, African American/Black, and Latinx educators, populations that are most at risk from becoming sick or dying from COVID-19.

Too many have erroneously assumed child care is not being impacted by the coronavirus. In fact, as of December 10, at least 6,024 cases have been reported in California child care programs alone, most of them among adults (since the state reporting guidelines are unclear, the numbers are likely much higher). Recent studies show that while young children are less likely than adults to carry the virus, it can still be transmitted from adults to children of all ages. “If COVID-19 is spreading through the community, it is still going to spread through child care facilities,” said Austin.

Policymakers have lauded early childhood educators as heroes for continuing to care for and teach children throughout the pandemic, but few have followed through with support. “Unlike firefighters and flight attendants, early childhood educators do not have a well-funded lobby group,” said Austin. She also noted that policymakers must include child care workers who operate programs in their homes, in order to include all members of the sector. “If we want to protect our economy and support parents and families, we must protect our child care workforce.”

I would like people to know that child care providers are also frontline staff. We need to be at work so that essential workers, and now all workers, can continue to work. We seem to have been forgotten though.” — California child care provider

For more on policies needed to support the early childhood education workforce throughout the pandemic and beyond, go to https://cscce.berkeley.edu/covid-19-resources-and-publications/

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