Today’s issue captures a lot of my thoughts and head scratching as Northam tries to steer Virginia toward Phase 1 of reopening on May 15th:
This is incredibly frustrating. What was the point of announcing all of those data-based guidelines if Northam just had his sights set on May 15th anyway? What happens if the data don’t cooperate and get in line for his new two-week deadline? Northam’s also switching his messaging to “safer at home” instead of “stay at home,” but, as always, safer at home for whom? Phase One sends employees at “restaurants, recreation, and personal care business such as hair salons and spas”—mostly working-class people—back to work. Folks who are privileged enough to have good insurance and can work from home are encouraged to continue doing so. Here’s a quote from the Governor, take a second and think about who the “you” in this quote is: “Here’s the bottom line…You’ll be able to get your hair cut, but you’ll need an appointment. It means you can go out to eat again, but restaurants will use less of their seating to spread people out. Phase One means more retail establishments can be open, but they’ll have to operate at lower capacity.”
“Think about who the ‘you’ in this quote is…”
These aren’t high paying jobs with great insurance benefits that are opening up.
There is also the issue of, sure, things are open, but where are the kids going to go?
Carberry can’t work because there’s no one to watch her 4-year-old son, Robbie. Robbie’s child care center is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Carberry’s family lives far away. Carberry is a single mother with less than a dollar in the bank.
“I get the emails to see if I’m available. I told them, if I had child care, I’d be there,” Carberry told HuffPost. Before COVID-19, in a pinch, Carberry could find someone in the neighborhood to watch Robbie. Now, with social distancing, that’s just not possible. “It’s not like I can reach out to the church and find some ladies to fill in,” she said. “Nobody wants to get their family infected.”
In Virginia, daycare facilities remain open, but are bound by the state’s social distancing guidelines and restrictions on groups larger than 10 people. Classrooms that used to hold 30 children can now only hold 8 and two caregivers. Facilities that used to have 140 children are now at 40 and hard pressed to open to more due to spacing restrictions.
This is going to hurt people who are being told to come back to work but simply can’t due to lack of childcare – potentially impacting unemployment benefits.
The solution isn’t to just throw open the doors of schools and daycares (see reaction to Dr. Oz for more on that…) but policy wonks are going to have to figure out how to structure these Phases in a way that doesn’t leave families with children on the outside looking in.