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Sick kids creating ripple effect on families


BOCA RATON, Fla — Luciano Moraes, a father, is trying to find his way in life.

“Amy is 6 years old, I have Annie, Annie is 3 years old, and I have Andrew,” he said. “Andrew is a 1-year-old boy, ” said Moraes.

He lost his wife to COVID-19.

“It’s not easy, not easy,” he said. “It’s complicated…She (his wife) was pregnant. She stayed there for 3 months. After 3 months, she passed away. Now I am taking care of my three kids. I’m a dad and a mom at the same time.”

His children are at the Fuller Center in Boca Raton, a place aimed at helping working families. He said he’s trying to figure out a work-life balance at a time when viruses are spiking.

“This is not easy. Not easy, because I have three kids,” he said. “When I have one sick, basically all of them are for me because I don’t go to work,” he added.

New numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show parents are missing work at high rates for childcare reasons. In fact, October was a record high, as more than 100,000 adults had to call out from work. Those numbers appear higher than the height of the pandemic and some doctors said we aren’t even into the worst of the season yet.

“We are moving into these months with already a lot of viruses out there,” said Dr. Shannon Fox-Levine, a pediatrician with Palm Beach Pediatrics. “Extraordinary number of sick kids and adults, you know the parents are also sick with the same illnesses that the kids have.

She said this year, the ripple effect from viruses is real for parents.

“It’s just an unusual effect, typically the kids in daycare, their parents have been exposed to these viruses they bring home, and they just don’t tend to get sick from them,” she said. “Not only are parents having to stay home with their sick children to take care of them, but then they end up sick themselves and out of work.”

It’s not only stressful but also a huge financial strain for families. In some cases, no work means no pay.

“I need to control my costs at home,” said Moraes.

He said babysitters are expensive and not ideal.

“Children who are sick need to be taken care of by their mom and dad,” said Ellyn Okrent with the Fuller Center. “It’s really overall an extremely difficult situation.”

She said the trickle-down effect on the labor force is real.

“It’s doubly difficult, because not only do we have teachers, who have children who are getting sick. Our teachers are getting sick and we have such a staffing shortage.”

She said she feels for families right now.

“The sad thing is people are expected to go to work, and they are expected to be there, and there is really not a whole lot of consideration made for the parenting part,” she said. “Our families are suffering. Our children are suffering, and the American society really isn’t valuing the parenting piece and what it takes to bring up healthy children.”

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