Yokosuka Naval Base’s child development center has closed, after a child who regularly attends the facility was tested for the COVID-19 virus. Depending on the child’s test results, the center could re-open as early as Monday, according to U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s commanding officer Navy Capt. Michael Jarrett Jr.
“Out of an abundance of caution the Yokosuka Child Development Center is closed until further notice,” Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s Facebook page posted on Wednesday. “Ensuring the safety of our Navy personnel and their families is our top priority, and we will take every precaution necessary to do so.”
Jarrett issued a letter to parents on base Wednesday notifying them that test results for the child development center attendee are pending and the child development center facility is being “appropriately sanitized.” As a result, he said the child development center will remain closed the rest of the week, but could re-open on March 23.
However, CFAY said on Facebook the child development center at Ikego, a U.S. Navy housing detachment less than 10 miles from Yokosuka, will still operate as usual.
There have been more than 800 coronavirus cases in Japan as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization. However, there have been no confirmed cases among those affiliated with Yokosuka Naval Base yet, per Jarrett.
“As of today, no one from U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) has tested positive for the virus, but we cannot predict the results of individual tests,” Jarrett said in the letter.
“Please continue to practice all recommended everyday preventative measures to keep you and your family healthy,” Jarrett said. “This is critical during the ongoing public health situation and will help us to keep the child development center open and serving the community.”
A similar situation also unfolded at neighboring Yokota Air Base this week. There, a staff member for the base’s child development center also was tested for COVID-19, prompting the child care facility on base to temporarily close.
“During the closure, professionals will sanitize all facilities according to protocol before the CDC reopens and children are able to return on Monday,” Yokota Air Base said on Facebook Tuesday.
Yokota added that there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases on the base yet.
On Tuesday evening, CNIC officials confirmed that a draft list of reforms sparked by the global coronavirus epidemic had been enacted.
“During the current COVID-19 crisis, we are adapting our Child and Youth Program (CYP) operations to meet both the Navy’s mission and family requirements while ensuring the children in our care and our professionals are healthy and safe.”
Perhaps most controversially, new measures waive the need for criminal background checks for “supplemental staffing” employees imported from other military programs for “increased cleaning/sanitation” designed to combat COVID-19 infection.
Instead, the supplemental staff will be “always in line of sight supervision of ‘blue smock’ CYP employee and not in ratio."
Childcare providers who wear blue smocks or shirts indicate that background checks have been satisfactorily completed, according to CYP handbooks.
Those who typically wear red smocks or shirts have ongoing background checks and CYP professionals must be in the line of sight of an approved staff member at all times.
“The safety of our children is always our No. 1 priority. Although background checks on supplemental staff are being waived due to the current pandemic, they are at all times supervised or in line of sight by staff who have been vetted,” wrote CNIC spokeswoman Coleen R. San Nicolas-Perez in a prepared statement to Navy Times.
“These supplemental staff will focus only on cleaning efforts to increase sanitation standards. In addition, our personnel who care for our military’s children are committed to providing a service that have a direct and positive impact on our service members and families. It remains our goal to provide our fighters and families with the support they need to fulfill the Navy mission.”
School Liaison Officers also will be assigned to the facilities to supplement the ranks, according to the official list of changes.
CNIC’s measures will cancel or postpone all hourly programs or services for all children, newborns to age 12, except for those ruled “emergency/mission essential." CNIC is ending all youth sports, youth and teen programs and field trips away from childcare facilities and no new enrollees will be accepted into the Navy-operated system unless they’re determined to be “emergency/mission essential.”
Sensory tables are being removed. Workers won’t brush children’s teeth and will now plate food for youths instead of letting then dine as a group.
Parents will be “required to self-care for own children at home” if they have Navy full-time telework agreements. The Navy will waive the parents’ fees and their children’s spaces will be saved until the pandemic ends.
Fees will be waived and spaces saved for other parents who voluntarily and temporarily withdraw their children for at least two weeks, or until May 1.
CNIC officials don’t know how many children and families will be affected by the new measures, largely because on unknown variables, such as the shifting number of families to opt to care for their kids at home or who must go into quarantine.
“However, we will continue to work with our service members, families and base leaders as we move forward together to overcome this pandemic,” said San Nicolas-Perez.
Despite the chidcare measures changing at CNIC facilities worldwide and the growing number of schools shuttered in the United States, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools in Japan continue to remain open.
That’s run in against the tide of other DoDEA schools around the world that have shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
DoDEA Pacific East Superintendent Judy Allen said Tuesday there have been no cases of coronavirus at any of the DoDEA schools in Japan, and any decision to cancel classes would be made in conjunction with U.S. Forces Japan and medical authorities.
“If we do change and do something differently, then certainly we’d look at virtual schooling,” Allen said during a Facebook live townhall event Tuesday. “We already have some plans in place in case we do have to close the schools of how we would be able to continue the education of our children.”
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.