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Daycares considered essential, will stay open while 'safer at home' orders are in place

Daycare workers are taking extra precautions to keep kids safe while their parents are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — While many parents find themselves now working at home with their kids, that's not the case for everyone.

"We still have essential personnel that are out there on the frontline. Medical workers, first responders, and even people that are supporting in the social services sector that need care for their kids," said Lori Humphreys, VP of Childcare Services for the YMCA of East Tennessee.

Even under a 'safer at home' order, daycares are still open, deemed essential businesses.

"Childcare is an important part of our infrastructure and it's a really important part of keeping everything going," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department.

RELATED: LIST: What are essential & non-essential businesses during "Safer at Home" order

Humphreys said the YMCA is serving anywhere from 35-60 kids a day at their four open locations

"Once parents see what we're doing and how we're protecting students, they're very happy to have their children come to play," said Humphreys.

The YMCA is taking a lot of new safety and sanitation steps.

Credit: YMCA

Staff and students get their temperatures checked upon entering the building, they constantly clean toys and wash their hands at least every half hour.

"We've doubled, sometimes tripled the square footage of where our kids are so that they're able to practice the 6-foot distance as well," said Humphreys.

RELATED: "Safer at Home" order issued by Knox County Health Department

Some parents, like Sherri Tidwell, said that still isn't enough.

"How long [can] an illness or virus stay on a plastic toy versus a blanket versus a cardboard box," she said.

Tidwell is one of many working parents who want daycares closed.

"I understand that that's important to accommodate working parents but we need to prioritize saving lives and health over inconvenience right now," said Tidwell.

She has a three year old daughter, and is worried that children in her daycare may be sick without showing symptoms, which could spread the virus to other more vulnerable people.

Tidwell also said many daycare facilities have strict attendance policies, and pulling kids out could threaten tuition assistance and make them lose their spot in the school.

She's hoping people will opt for alternatives.

RELATED: 'Safer at Home' still means you can go outside while keeping safe distance from others

"If they can find anyone else, another family member that lives close to them, or anyone else that can watch them then that would be better," said Tidwell.

Humphreys said kids will be OK at daycare.

"I would rather provide the care that we're doing and going above and beyond for the safety measures then a child be left at home latch key right now," she said.

Daycares can apply for state aid to stay open even with a potential business loss due to COVID-19.    

Licensed childcare agencies are encouraged to apply through this website.