Approximately 7.5 million children from birth to age five are enrolled in primary weekly center-based programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Because many of them are private entities, owners are able to close at their own discretion. At least for now.
Governors have been hesitant to take steps towards closure. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference Tuesday that businesses must close first.
"Close the daycare centers...then how do the people go to work who were leaving their children in daycare?" asked Cuomo, who is a Democrat, rhetorically. "The first step would be reduction on the number of businesses. That then leaves parents home. That then allows children to be home."
Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine, a Republican, pleaded with parents Sunday, tweeting: "If you have children in daycare and can keep them home, please do it. To close daycares overnight won't work, but it's coming."
While some state leaders are discussing the possibility of daycare closures, others are expanding access.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan, the second state leader to close K-12 schools statewide, enacted an emergency order on March 13 that extends child care services to first responders and health care workers.
The order allows the state superintendent to suspend regulations that limit the capacity and age of children in child care centers as long as it is safe.
There has been little discussion of daycare closures at the federal level. The Coronavirus Task Force seemed unprepared to answer questions about this during their Monday White House briefing, saying their guidelines so far only applied to K-12 schools.
"I think it's very important. We should probably go back and discuss that in some detail...," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious diseases chief.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides interim guidance on their website about what childcare should do based on the amount of community spread and says, "Childcare and school administrators should work in close collaboration and coordination with local health officials to make dismissal and large event cancellation decisions."
The United States has seen more than 5,700 positive cases of coronavirus since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. There have been more than 190,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide and more than than 80,000 have recovered.