Omicron is the latest disaster for working parents – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – Jasmine Moorman is going through a rough week.

The single mother of five tries to sort out a logistical problem. She has to take her three oldest children to school because their bus driver is absent, which puts her behind schedule in her job of administering the Covid-19 tests.

Her sons stay late in an after-school program, so she can pick them up after work. But her daughter is not old enough to be eligible for the program and needs to be brought home early, while Moorman is said to be at work. She had to scramble to find a family member to help her and is crossing her fingers that the bus driver will return soon.

Another complication: her two youngest children are not of school age. A nearby daycare is facing its own staffing issues and is no longer accepting children for the time being. For now, Moorman’s grandmother is looking after them, but she is getting older and looking after two young children is hard work.

Moorman, who lives in Owensboro, Ky., Is dealing with it all while recovering from a groundbreaking case of Covid-19 herself. She worries about what the future holds.

“I am very worried that [remote school] would be a possibility again, ”she said. “The last school year was a terrible struggle.” Moorman was on maternity leave at the time, so she didn’t have to worry about going to work. Now the situation is different. “If that happens this time around I’m not really sure what the outcome would be. “

Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, working parents are wondering how much they can still take.

For some, the latest wave caused by the highly contagious variant of Omicron creates a whole new set of unexpected struggles. For others, it means a sudden return to early pandemic conditions, like working from home while helping children learn from a distance, this time after months of stress.

The domino effect is real and potentially damaging for economic recovery. A single screaming sick bus driver can lead to a series of consequences that disrupt the work of several people.

Omicron and the trades

Some workers may throw in the towel and leave the labor market because of this latest hurdle, which could slow the country’s job recovery.

“A lot of workers have pulled out of the workforce,” said David Wilcox, senior researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and economist at Bloomberg Economics. “It’s just surprisingly widespread.”

More than four million Americans left their jobs in October, down slightly from a record 4.4 million in September. (Many of these workers left their jobs for better prospects elsewhere, but the pandemic has also resulted in many early retirements of people who will not return to work.)

There are many reasons to avoid working out if you can. People may fear exposure to unmasked or hostile clients, have a vulnerable dependent who could become seriously ill from Covid, or feel pressured to quit due to understaffing in their own jobs. which makes the workloads unbearable.

And for parents, a sudden lack of access to child care is a huge burden.

Even before the pandemic, “many parents struggled to find affordable, high-quality child care,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, adding that “parents, in particular women, have often left the labor market ”because of a lack of childcare services. “Omicron has exacerbated this.”

The surges caused by variants like Omicron and Delta have “made it more difficult for parents to stay in the workforce or have a full-time job in the workforce because there is so much of the unknown,” Gould added.

It is too early for Omicron’s impact to show up in government employment data, she added. But if the past is a precedent, the current spike in cases will mean a weaker January jobs report.

Delta’s push caused “a pretty big deceleration in the kinds of job gains we saw earlier in the summer,” she noted. “The recovery has slowed down in a measurable way. With Omicron, “it will certainly be true that this will deal a blow to the job market.”

Daycares and schools send children home

Terrence Davenport’s two-year-old daughter was in daycare throughout the pandemic. Then Omicron struck.

A surge of cases among daycares and children has meant Davenport’s daughter has had to stay home for most of the year so far. While his wife is at work and their seven-year-old son is in school, Davenport balances the responsibilities of the cooktop with the care and entertainment of their daughter, which means plenty of breaks from the cartoons, coloring books and toilet training.

“Normally what I do is keep her in my office… and tell her to bring all her toys to play while I try to stay focused on work,” he said. “It’s constant attention to her and keeping her busy.”

Davenport, who lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, works for a global computer consulting company that has shown understanding, he said. But the current configuration is not sustainable. “I can’t be in communication with a two year old crying in my ear,” he said. Davenport worries that she won’t be able to keep up with her job while looking after her, let alone being considered for new positions or promotions.

If their daughter is to stay home for weeks, the family will have to make tough decisions. Davenport is the main breadwinner, so he and his wife discussed the possibility of her working part-time or quitting her job entirely, he said.

The struggling daycares in Davenport and Moorman are representative of a larger problem.

Government data shows that employment in the child care sector is down 10% from February 2020, noted Jessica Brown, assistant professor of economics at the Darla Moore School of Business. University of South Carolina. In all other industries combined, she noted, jobs are down about 2.4%.

“With the Omicron explosion, many daycares were already understaffed and therefore don’t have people to cover when employees are away,” she said.

While daycares struggle to maintain staff, many schools are suddenly switching to distance learning as cases increase.

In addition to contracting Covid and fighting for child custody, parents must fear their children will fall ill, along with the threat of multiple quarantine periods.

Tired of being tired

When Tori Martinez’s 11-year-old daughter tested positive for Covid-19 last week, Martinez assumed it would only be a matter of time before the rest of her family tested positive.

She decided to take as much time off work as possible for a few days and keep her son home while her daughter was quarantined in a separate room and her husband worked remotely, also from home.

Martinez, her husband and their son – all vaccinated, like the couple’s daughter – continued to be tested, anticipating another positive result. But all three remained negative.

That’s a mixed blessing, as now Martinez fears his family will have to quarantine again if either of them tests positive at another exposure.

“There were a few moments where I looked at my husband and I just said, I’m so tired of being tired,” Martinez said. “We all continue to try to make the best of the circumstances,” she added. “But 22 months is a really long time to make the most of the circumstances.”

The pandemic has left Martinez, like so many parents, completely exhausted.

“Even when you know you’re doing the right thing, making good, healthy choices, and trying to overcome that hurdle… that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.”

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