Ralph Wilson Youth Club had two cases of COVID-19 within the first two weeks of its summer program, but Executive Director Brett E. Williams said they have operated without a hitch from the virus in the weeks since.
“The game-changer for us was the second case that we had,” Williams told the Telegram. “The child was actually in the club, so we had to go through our process of isolating them, cleaning and getting the parent to pick up their child.”
Although the child passed all of Ralph Wilson Youth Club’s COVID-19 screening measures, Williams believes they have an effective process in place for minimizing exposure.
“We think it is a pretty good screening process,” he said. “We have about five or six questions that we based on CDC recommendations, and we also temperature check every kid before they get out of the car.”
Williams said these screenings are the least Ralph Wilson Youth Club could do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It just gives us the chance to try to catch the obvious. Let’s not have an issue because we didn’t catch the small stuff,” he said.
However, Ralph Wilson Youth Club began requiring masks after their second known infection.
“After that second case we implemented the mask (requirement) … and we have not had any COVID-19 issues with our members since then,” Williams said. “So we’ve had a pretty good run. I don’t know if it’s because of luck but our kids have done a really good job of wearing their masks.”
The club also has operated with reduced numbers, as they accepted 375 registrations this summer — nearly half of their typical registration total. Williams said their facility probably has had anywhere from 140 to 160 kids on site per day during the summer.
“But that allowed us to reduce some things, because we never told our parents that we would have strict social distancing measures,” Williams said. “Sometimes kids can get a little squirrely, but we are doing well with reduced numbers in terms of registration and reduced numbers in our spaces.”
Children even began sitting in a pattern during lunch to minimize face-to-face contact.
“We’re doing triangle seating, which helps because there is no one sitting directly across from someone,” Williams said.
That precaution is something local health officials have advised.
“With eating together, another way to reduce transmission is to not face each other, and try to have a little angle that will reduce the chance of transmission also,” Dr. Umad Ahmad, chief medical officer of AdventHealth Central Texas and AdventHealth Rollins Brook, said in a news conference in early July.
Williams said they are going to stay the course when schools reopen.
“It helped us that Temple ISD has opted to make masks mandatory, so that allows us to keep doing what we’re doing and not inconvenience our kids. It’ll be a routine,” he said. “We’re still going to do the same screenings, and we don’t allow anyone in the building other than our youth club members and our staff.”
But Ralph Wilson Youth Club will need to begin accepting children after school regardless if they have a fever.
“The difference is if we pick up a child from TISD with a fever,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to accept them because there’s no parent here. In that case we will just roll with our isolation process and take them to a quarantine area until their parents get here.”
However, Williams is pretty confident in his youth club members’ abilities to continue to take the proper precautions.
“I think a lot of times we doubt kids. They are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for, and our kids have been just that this summer,” Williams said.
And for Temple ISD children who would rather learn remotely, a select few will have that opportunity this fall.
“We’re also looking at offering a remote learning site for parents, who choose not to send their kids back to school,” Williams said. “We’re launching a pilot program where we’re going to offer 30 spots for kids. If your parents work and you want to learn remotely, you’ll be able to come to Ralph Wilson.”
Amanda Robison-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, said they are consistently directing child care centers to operate with an abundance of caution.
“At minimum they need to follow directives from their licensing authority,” she said. “We typically ask that they close to disinfect but that a full 14 day closure is even better if at all possible. Anyone from a household with COVID should not be allowed to return until everyone in the household has recovered per CDC criteria or has gone through the appropriate monitoring and isolation period.”