The Washington Post, August 2021
Sarah Mordecai just got the phone call that no parent wants: Her son was exposed to covid at day care. She had to pick up her two children immediately and prepare to quarantine. Mordecai and her husband scrambled to swiftly rearrange their schedules to be home with their two kids, ages 1 and 3. They worry the entire rest of the year could be a series of emergencies like this where the kids get exposed and the whole family is back on lockdown. “We were starting to breath a sigh of relief. Now we’re back to panicking,” said Mordecai, who works for a health insurer in Little Rock. “Given the low vaccination rate in our area, I can’t see how it doesn’t happen again.”
Panic is setting in among America’s 46 million parents of children under 12 as plans for in-person day care and schooling are getting disrupted yet again from the rise of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus. While children do not tend to face the worst complications from the virus, they do get sick and spread the virus, which can close down camps, school and day care for weeks. All of this is happening just as many employers are demanding workers return to the office.
When children have to stay home, the burden typically falls on moms. Some economists are warning the United States may be on the verge of a massive second wave of women dropping out of the labor force if the delta variant of the coronavirus cannot be stopped.
“I really do worry this will lead to a second wave of women leaving the labor force,” said economist Alicia Sasser Modestino, an associate professor at Northeastern University. “For the economy, overall, is this a big deal? Probably not. But is this a big deal for women? Yes it is. We risk more women being casualties of the great resignation.”