The 11-member Massachusetts congressional delegation wrote to Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday urging him to release data on cases of coronavirus at child-care centers after the Globe reported that the administration has been denying public records requests.
In a letter written by Representative Katherine Clark, the Massachusetts representatives expressed “concern regarding the lack of transparency as it pertains to COVID-19 data in child care settings.”
“We recognize the challenging tightrope you and your administration must walk during these uncertain times and the imperative of protecting the privacy of personal information,” they wrote. “However, we believe that access to COVID-19 data from child care providers would help Massachusetts families make informed decisions regarding sending their children back to school in the coming weeks.”
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care has denied the Globe’s request for detailed data on coronavirus cases at emergency child-care centers, citing privacy concerns. The department confirmed in June there were at least 64 cases reported by the emergency day-care centers, which remained open from March through June while all other centers and schools were closed due to the virus. However, the department has refused to provide the distribution of the cases, making it impossible to tell whether there was spread at any individual center.
The Globe has been appealing the department’s decision to the state Supervisor of Records and has requested more recent data on cases at child-care centers that were allowed to reopen June 22.
Numerous child-care providers who are still worried about the risk of reopening their own centers or homes have also requested the data from the state and been ignored, they told the Globe.
“We believe this type of data is critical for families to make informed decisions and that it can be shared without revealing the identities of the patients or the impacted child care providers,” the members of Congress wrote.
“The Commonwealth is in a unique position to provide the country with a better understanding of how COVID is handled in a school-like setting because 550 emergency child care centers remained open and were carefully monitored in Massachusetts throughout the pandemic,” the letter states. “The experience of these facilities over the last few months could be an important benchmark for considering how best to open schools and other child care settings.”
With cases of coronavirus still being reported in the state, teachers, parents, and superintendents have been weighing the risks of reopening school buildings in September. Their plans are due on Friday. Baker has encouraged schools in communities with low rates of coronavirus to open.
Department of Early Education and Care spokeswoman Colleen Quinn said the department is reviewing the letter. “It continues to work with the Department of Public Health to implement the requirements included in the FY20 supplemental budget and to develop the tracking system for child care systems,” she added.