BOSTON (CBS) – Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday that all daycares in Massachusetts will be ordered to close amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning Monday, March 23, all early education centers and child care providers must close.
Emergency procedures are being put into place so that exempt programs will allow childcare for first responders, medical staff, and other critical personnel.
"Families who work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to these emergency childcare programs," said Baker. "Vulnerable children will also receive priority access. We'll work hard to make space for people who must go to work but aren't necessarily emergency personnel available as well."
Preschool Social Academy in Winchester has remained open in the midst of the coronavirus concern. For the school's operator, Kimberly Higgins, it has not been an easy decision as social distancing is harder with young children.
"We've been taking proper precautions but they are children, and it's hard for them to understand. It's also been hard to operate under a sense of calm for them."
She's been questioning why statewide, schools have been ordered closed but not early learning centers.
She says this decision now gives them answers.
"The Governor has a lot of people on his team that are giving him answers to questions about whether it's safe. He has said for public schools to shutdown, but why were we left hanging?" Higgins remained open to help her teachers and families, and knows this will be difficult. "It's hard for everyone and we're going to have to pull together even more to get through this."
Baker said he has already received offers from the education community to help.
"Volunteers, teachers and staff from some childcare programs have already reached out to the department to say that they are ready and willing to continue providing care which will be a relief to many of the parents who are working day and night to combat COVID-19," said Baker.
With colleges and universities having sent students home for the year, dorm rooms are being considered as potential options for housing healthcare workers and other essential employees.
Because so many people are out of work due to coronavirus shutdowns, Baker said he signed an order on Wednesday that will waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits.
Baker said this will allow impacted workers to get assistance quickly.
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