Two mothers in Newfoundland and Labrador want changes to how the province handles COVID-19 within its daycare centres, citing missed work and mounting frustrations at policies that force their young children to stay home more often than not.

“Three-year-olds with sniffly noses can’t go to daycare anymore,” said an exasperated Sarah Dyson, a mother of one in Corner Brook.

“And if anyone knows what children are like in the winter, they have runny noses the entire time.”

Dyson can work from home in her job with the federal government. But with a toddler around, not much is getting done.

Her daughter is now at home after her daycare closed in mid-January due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Because they’re self-isolating, nobody can come by to help out during the day, Dyson said.

“Without the help of family, it’s really quite impossible to do any sort of work or get anything done productively,” she said.

Sarah Dyson is one of two parents who told CBC News on Monday that she’s struggling to make sense of COVID-19 policies for daycares. (Submitted by Sarah Dyson)

Lorna Bursey, a salesperson in Corner Brook who can’t work from home, found herself using precious vacation time to stay home with her young son when he contracted a mild case of COVID-19.

For a month prior to that, a family member travelled three hours to stay in their household and help with child care when her son caught a bug of one sort or another, forcing him to self-isolate.

“We’ve had to heavily rely on family to take care of our children so we could actually work,” Bursey said.

“I foresee the same thing happening over and over.… I just don’t see an end, because there isn’t a change [in policy].”

The Department of Health, in response to questions from CBC News, said daycares that become aware of a positive COVID-19 case among staff or clients are asked to notify Public Health. They’re then guided by public health workers to determine who was exposed and who needs to get tested, based on occupancy levels, physical distancing and other protocols in place at that particular facility.

Some partial closures are for only a day or two as daycare staff wait for test results, the department said.

“It is important to note, that the length of child-care closures can vary depending on circumstances, and not all closures are necessarily long term,” the department said in a statement.

Dyson, however, wonders how parents will continue to grapple with the constant uncertainty.

“Are we going to be shutting down every 10 days, every time one of those children get an exposure?” she said.

“I don’t know if public health has really thought that through.… I think there needs to be clarification that it’s unsustainable.”

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