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With COVID Vaccines Ramping Up, So Are Child Care Waitlists

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Child care centers are starting to see families come back. When the pandemic began, many saw a drop in enrollment. Some local daycares even had to close. Others saw as much as a 70% drop in enrollment.

Parents reported being concerned about safety or job losses, but the vaccine rollout could be the comeback they've been waiting for.

Workers at Casa De Corazon locations found out Tuesday that they had been chosen to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It does sort of feel like winning the lottery," Casa De Corazon founder Natalie Standridge said.

The state of Minnesota is currently vaccinating a limited number of child care providers, but plans are in the works to expand as more supply comes in.

Standridge says they have had an increase in inquiries, tours, and enrollment this month.

"Now with the vaccine it's really a light at the end of the tunnel for so many individuals and families," Standridge said.

Their child care centers saw anywhere from a 20-30 percent drop in enrollment when many families were able to get in without waiting. Things started pick up again in the fall. Now several locations are getting back up to a 12-18 month waitlist for infants.

Minnesota Child Care Association President and New Horizon Academy CEO Chad Dunkley says the biggest issue is many daycares don't have pre-pandemic staffing and need to plan ahead.

Right now nationally child care centers are still at about 60 percent capacity compared to what they were before the pandemic, but Dunkley says he anticipates that could change drastically once the vaccine is readily available to the general public.

"If all of a sudden the state goes, 'Everybody back to work,' and it's June 1, there won't be enough child care June 1 to do that," he said.

Dunkley says if you are planning for child care in the next few months, it's a good idea to hold a spot now with a provider. He says that is even more important if you will need infant care in the next year.

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