Gov. Pritzker to expand child care in next phases of 'Restore Illinois'

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CHICAGO (WIFR) -- The gradual reopening of child care was announced in the next phases of Gov. Pritzker's "Restore Illinois."

Illinois has not seen significant transmission of COVID-19 in child care settings, which is encouraging evidence that child care can be provided safely, according to a statement from Gov. Pritzker on Friday afternoon.

The statement claims public health experts note that there is still much to learn about the virus, its impact on children and how it spreads.

New group size limits will be roughly 30 percent lower than their pre-pandemic levels for centers. For licensed homes, most will be able to operate at standard capacity. Collectively, these efforts would bring Illinois to three-quarters of the previous child care capacity in the state, according to the statement.

“We can’t have a conversation about going back to work without talking about child care – anything else leaves a large portion of the workforce, especially women who too often bear a disproportionate burden, without any way to move forward while caring for their kids,” Gov. Pritzker said. “Illinois must take a cautious approach that appropriately balances the need to greatly expand child care with the need to lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.”

Providers that have been successfully operating as emergency child care providers will move immediately to these new maximum capacities when their region enters Phase 3. Most licensed child care homes will also be able to reopen to their licensed capacity.

"Illinois is encouraging all of the currently closed licensed child care providers to reopen when their Region moves to Phase 3 to serve the many families who will be returning to work. Those providers that have been closed and will reopen must develop a Reopening Plan that ensures they have revised operational and preparedness policies in place before opening," according to the statement.

These newly reopened providers will have reduced capacity of no more than 10 children per classroom, for the first four weeks. Once they have provided care safely for four weeks and have followed the new health, social distancing, sanitation routines and guidelines, they will be able to expand to larger group sizes, though not their full licensed capacity.

There will be no restrictions on which families can use child care in Phases 3 and 4.

"The state gathered input from over 80 stakeholders in discussions on how to safely and prudently reopen child care across Illinois, from new health and sanitation protocols, to staff training needs, to what supports families will need as they return to child care," according to the statement.