coronavirus

Chicago Considering Free Childcare to Hospital Workers and First Responders

'Last resort' plan could have CPS teachers volunteering to look after small groups of children in some schools and parks.

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is looking at contingency childcare plans for Chicago first responders and hospital workers as schools and day cares remain closed for weeks and the coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Among those proposals, described as a "last resort" by a mayoral spokeswoman, is free childcare for those workers administered by Chicago Public School teachers who volunteer their care.

"The Mayor's Office is developing multiple contingency plans for child care to healthcare and other essential workers in the event that such care is needed to ensure that our critical systems can continue to operate," the mayor's office said in a statement. "The proposal in question is not being implemented at this time."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has reached out to two major unions in the city to try to help find child care services for hospital staff and health care workers. NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern has the details.

That proposal, first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, would have included teachers watching over small groups of children in schools, day cares and park district facilities. The mayor's office says that plan is not moving forward.

If a proposal were to move forward, the mayor's office says sites would be organized in accordance with health and safety best practices in line with the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

On Wednesday, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey sent a letter to members saying Chicago Public Schools has been "less than transparent" about its plans so far.

"Our union does its best to be helpful and support initiatives that protect our communities and cut the spread of this deadly virus, as we have since the beginning," said Sharkey. "But we are concerned about practices, and must protect member safety rights."

Specifically, the union is concerned about guaranteed protective gear provided for staff, including soap, hand sanitizer, gloves and face masks. It also wants the city to ensure the availability of coronavirus tests if teachers or family members get sick.

Teachers across the state have been out of class as schools remain closed through at least April 7 due to Illinois' Stay at Home Order.

For now, the mayor's office is urging emergency responders to take advantage of free in-home child care provided with the city's partner service, Sittercity.

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