A Message From First 5 LA
First 5 LA cares deeply about the health and well-being of L.A. County’s children and families and the many family-serving organizations upon which they rely. We are working to keep our community informed of the impact of the evolving coronavirus pandemic including how First 5 LA is adapting, and how to stay safe during this unique time.
First 5 LA is a remote organization for the foreseeable future. We are committed to continuing to support our partners. We will continue to provide regular updates and guidance to grantees as we revise and adapt our policies and procedures to support, where possible, the critical issues facing our partners and to do so while working remotely. Please check our
website regularly for updates. We recently posted a letter to grantees and partners from our Executive Director Kim Belshé, which you can read here.
First 5 LA also recognizes the significant impact this pandemic is having on our most vulnerable families. We have been posting news and resources for parents on our parenting website
Good afternoon! Welcome to this Special Edition of First 5 LA's Week In Review covering the top news of the week related to early childhood development and COVID-19.

Yesterday, the president signed The Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law, which is designed to provide economic relief to families impacted by COVID-19; it includes, among other things, paid sick and family leave provisions. National think-tank New America however said the package did not go far enough and "failed to create universal protections."

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in a press release yesterday that it will be suspending all field operations for the 2020 Census until April 1 to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This and more in today's Special Edition of the Week In Review.

Editor’s Note: We want acknowledge the overwhelming news coverage on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic, which has extended today's Week in Review past our usual length. To help readers navigate, we've included a linked Table of Contents below. We also encourage you to visit
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for the latest information. As always, our goal is to share with you the latest news and views on early childhood development.
COVID-19 Special Edition Table of Contents

Impact on Child Care and School Closures

Institutions Suspended and Upended: On Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) joined five of California’s largest public school districts in officially closing doors to curb the spread of COVID-19 –– a decision that has resulted in more than 5.7 million kids across the state staying home from school, as reported by LAist. LAUSD is transitioning to remote learning, in partnership with public access stations KCET and PBS, in an effort to create the most access for kids, as virtually all families have TV (but an estimated 25% of LAUSD’s families lack internet), as reported by EdSource. LAUSD is also working with internet companies to give low-income families free internet, and the district’s superintendent has asked the state for $50 million to provide students with tablets.

Unsurprisingly, school closures impact low-income families who depend on public school for meals and care the most, as reported by
U.S. News & World Report. Over 80% of LAUSD students live in poverty, according to an op-ed for The New York Times on the decision to close, written by an LAUSD Board member. “When we emerge on the other end of this public health crisis, we must address the broader crises of an eroded social safety net,” he wrote. While LAUSD originally planned to open 40 Family Resource Centers to respond to the disproportionate impact the school closures will have on families, it’s since moved to opening 60 grab-and-go food centers, citing concerns over COVID-19 spread, as reported by EdSource and CBS Los Angeles
Some day care providers in California, on the other hand, remain open, and the State has issued an emergency waiver to expand capacity, as reported by
LAist. Emergency day care centers have become especially vital in supporting the working parents who are on the frontlines of combatting the crisis, as reported by KCRA 3. The decision to keep day care centers open is being handled on a day-by-day basis, but reports that kids are less likely to experience mild symptoms if they do test positive for COVID-19 is being taken into consideration by individual centers when weighing the decisions on whether centers they should stay open, as reported by KPBS. Wednesday, San Diego County public health officials issued new guidelines for childcare providers, saying no more than 10 children can gather at any time and the group must be "stable," meaning the same group over time, also reported by KPBS.

Note, the Long Beach Early Childhood Education Committee has
provided a status update on closures in Long Beach, and the Child Care Resource Center has closed several Head Start sites in the San Fernando Valley.

Impact on Parents, At Home Learning and Other Resources for Families 

Impossible Choices: While many school districts have made the choice for the families of school aged children and their teachers, those who have kids in a child care, family day care or have (or are) a nanny, must make more individualized decisions about whether to be exposed to people outside the family. TIME shared the story of one family whose nanny quit after learning of the virus, and New York Times Parenting explores the question, “If we’re practicing social distancing, is it OK to invite babysitters into our homes?” In an op-ed for Romper, Dr. Florencia Segura of Einstein Pediatrics urges parents to keep kids out of day care centers for the safety of everyone, but also acknowledges that not all parents have that option. The Seattle Times also addressed the issue with their headline ‘social distancing is impossible in a preschool,’ and how Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee said the state is keeping “pharmacies, child care and day care facilities” open during the pandemic. Many parents are foregoing grandparent visits as well, reports The Washington Post, noting that those 65 and older are at higher risk of dying from the virus and children can be unknowing carriers.

Related article:
The New York Times: What Are the Rules for Play Dates During the Coronavirus Crisis?

Parent-Teacher, a New Meaning: As schools continue to close, parents are struggling to cope with the new reality of kids staying home. From finding child care options and balancing work and family life, to ensuring that there isn’t a break in their child’s learning, publications are sharing tips, first-hand accounts from parents and advice for helping the transition:
  • Work-Life Balance: For parents who have switched to remote work or are adjusting to working remotely while having kids at home, Forbes has compiled a list of tips to balance work and family priorities, all of which underscore the importance of communication with both family members and employers. NPR LifeKit also published tips, and The Wall Street Journal  shared stories of parents adjusting to the new norm.
  • Virtual Learning: Many parents have also been tasked with implementing the school district’s plans for at-home virtual learning, but some parents are saying that “the information that the district is putting out versus the reality of what is happening is very different.” To help, LAist has provided suggestions for activities to do with kids to keep them occupied, including a list of companies providing free online learning resources. EdNews, has compiled a similar list of tips for parents to help engage their children’s learning, and L.A. Times reporter Sonja Sharp has shared her favorite resources, while also sharing her experience as a parent of a young child suddenly in quarantine. Click here for First 5 LA's resource page on virtual learning for young children.
  • Keeping Routines: Child psychologist experts across the board are also urging parents to keep routines for their children to reduce the psychological stress of the change, while reminding them that it’s also essential to practice self-care and get physical exercise, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. To help parents understand how to establish a healthy at-home school rhythm and routines for their young children, EdSurge has also compiled a list of practical suggestions. 
Related articles:

Talking to Kids and Family Mental Health

How to Talk to Kids: As parents grapple with the rapidly evolving situation around them, it can be easy to forget that children need reassurance in scary times. To help parents find the right words, several experts have given their advice. New York Times Parenting reporter Jessica Grose interviewed experts and concludes that keeping your own anxiety in check is key. "Your demeanor is going to stir this massive pot of anxiety,” says Dunya Poltorak, Ph.D., a pediatric medical psychologist. In a complimentary piece, psychologist Madeline Levine breaks down how to talk to kids by age group, pointing out that for kids under 5, “less is more.” She also says, very young children “need to know that they can depend on the people around them for comfort and stability. If you’re OK, they’re OK.” Pediatrician Natasha Burger also weighed in on how to talk to kids for U.S. News & World Report, suggesting to not downplay COVID-19, but also don’t overshare. “Be straight and helpful in discussing what your family can do,” said Burget.

Mental Health: While the world is on-edge, anticipating ever worsening news about the global pandemic, outlets are encouraging families to stay mentally healthy and sharing tools to cope. For
U.S. News & World Report, parenting expert and child psychologist Dr. Susan Bartell compiled a list helpful tips to stay mentally healthy during this time including: limiting your family’s exposure to news; use technology for social interaction; and only make plans for the very near future. Experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts also compiled a helpful compendium of tips and resources for supporting children’s emotional well-being during the pandemic. “Children are more vulnerable to the emotional impact of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives,” reminds Child Trends. “Young people—even infants and toddlers—are keen observers of people and environments, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other caregivers, peers, and community members.” Provide age appropriate information, keep children busy and create opportunities for caregivers to take care of themselves (something New York Times Parenting also strongly suggests) are just a few of the recommendations.

Pregnant Women and Newborns

Pregnant in a Pandemic: Anecdotal evidence suggests that pregnant women do not experience more severe symptoms based on research published in PubMed last week and as reported by People. But because the risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes associated with COVID-19 is still relatively unknown, some experts warn that symptoms of the virus may be more extreme in pregnant women when compared to non-pregnant women due to lowered immune systems, as reported by Kaiser Family Foundation. According to the same data, it seems unlikely that pregnant women pass COVID-19 to their babies, but due to the limited nature of the study, firm conclusions still cannot be drawn and the question remains of  whether babies can catch the virus from an infected mother in the immediate aftermath of being born. This lack of information is contributing to some pregnant women’s anxiety, as one writer shares her experiences of what it’s like to be pregnant amid a pandemic in an op-ed for The Cut. Another woman shares her experience of what it’s like to have coronavirus while being pregnant in a story for The Wall Street Journal, saying that she experienced a fever and body chills but as time went on, she felt a little better each day.

Kids, Babies and Transmission

Not So Fast: Much of the reporting regarding children and the novel coronavirus claims children appear to be spared the worst of the disease, although they could be carriers. New research out of China and published online in the journal Pediatrics, however, shows that babies are especially vulnerable to developing severe infection, reports The New York Times. The study also confirms that children are playing a “major role” in spreading the pathogen, reports The Washington Post. One 10-month old and one 14-year-old – both in China -- have died from the disease, dispelling the notion that children are immune, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Impact on The Census

Census Outreach Delayed: The COVID-19 global pandemic is adding a new challenge to the already-difficult task of counting every person in the United States as part of the U.S. Census, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. Grassroots organizations and complete count committees have been forced to cancel awareness events due to emerging guidelines to limit the number of people at public gatherings, while other measures limiting social interactions pose an obstacle for counting populations such as Latinos who often depend on in-person outreach. Due to the importance of the count and the potential impact COVID-19 could have on getting accurate data, House democrats overseeing the Census urged the Census Bureau to come up with contingency plans, as reported by The New York Times. Census officials set up a task force this week but the bureau's public statements so far have provided “little explanation” for how to reduce concerns about the pandemic and collecting data. In a press release yesterday the Bureau announced in that it will be suspending all field operations for the 2020 Census until April 1 to help slow the spread of the virus, reports NPR.

Note: Last week we incorrectly stated the the U.S. Census begins on April 1st. The U.S. Census self-response period for the public began March 12.  April 1st is National Census Day, a dedicated day for community engagement to remind folks to participate. Anyone can now begin to self-enumerate online at or by phone. Thanks to Child 360's Ashley Portillo for the correction.

Legislative Action

California’s Response: Monday, the California legislature passed a budget package containing funding for up to $1 billion to respond to the current pandemic. Included in the package were several provisions to help children in the state, including $100 million to buy protective equipment and to disinfect schools and school based child care centers, reports EdSource. Attendance and reporting requirements for child care and development programs were also waived to ensure continuity of payments. The California Department of Education held a webinar on Wednesday to help K-12 schools and early education centers learn more about the package and the reporting requirements. Child care providers are calling for more support however, including paid time off for workers and additional assistants and substitutes for those who have to stay home. “The petitions were sent by Child Care Providers United, which represents licensed family child care providers who run programs out of their homes, and Californians for Quality Early Learning, which is a nonprofit membership organization that provides training and support for child care providers,” reports EdSource Early Childhood Reporter Zaidee Stavely.
Federal Response: Yesterday, March 18, the president signed The Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law, which is designed to provide economic relief to families impacted by COVID-19, reports
ABC News. The bill offers 10 days of paid sick leave to employees who have COVID-19, and families will be eligible for up to three months of partial paid family leave if they have to care for a child younger than 18 whose school or child care has closed, reports Buzzfeed. Both provisions will expire at the end of the year. The New York Times explains who qualifies for paid leave: “Most workers at small and midsize companies and nonprofits can get the paid leave, as can government employees, as long as they’ve been employed at least 30 days.” Companies with more than 500 people -- which is 48 % of the American workforce -- are exempt from the law. In a statement on their website, Senior Fellow of Paid Leave Policy and Strategy at New America Vicki Shabo railed at the loopholes in the bill, saying it “failed to create universal protections.” Congress is currently working on a third federal COVID-19 relief bill.

Note: To address the specific needs, questions, and policy priorities of family child care providers in response to the pandemic a group of national organizations* is hosting rapid response webinar this Monday, March 23rd from 12pm - 1:30pm EST: Addressing the Policy Needs of Family Child Care Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Click here to register.
*All Our Kin, National Women's Law Center, National Association for Family Child Care, MBST Solutions, Zero To Three, Child Care Aware of America, AFSCME, SEIU, National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Alliance for Early Success.

Additional Resources

Webinar: National child advocacy organization Child Care Aware® of America hosted a webinar to share the latest coronavirus and emergency preparedness resources along with updates and advice from the staff.  In addition, the moderators facilitate a discussion of what’s being done around the country at child care agencies and what people are doing to prepare and work with families. Click here for the hour-long webinar.

Be The Change: Are you looking for ways to help your community during this difficult time? California Volunteers from the Office of The Governor has developed a website to help you get connected to the many ways you can make a difference. Click here for more information on ways to get involved.

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It, Non COVID-19 Stories

Pre-to-3: Governance, preschool expansion among governors' top early ed goals for 2020
Education Dive

Building a better system to serve California’s youngest children — and their families by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris

Many Parents Wait Too Long for 'Good Touch, Bad Touch' Talk
The New York Times

 Eating Fish During Pregnancy May Have Metabolic Benefits for Children
The New York Times

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