'Crazier for them:' Mask mandate poses unique situation for kids, child care centers

MILWAUKEE -- Kids will be kids, but can they still be in a mask? One daycare on Milwaukee's south side says absolutely.

Fred Smith

The City of Milwaukee's mandate takes effect at 12 a.m. on Thursday, July 16. For some, wearing a mask in public is just a continuation of what they've already been doing.

"Kids pick up on things a lot quicker than adults do," said Fred Smith, an administrator with Tangie's Just Like Mommy Childcare Center. "As long as we can give them a reason why they're doing it and something comfortable for them -- it's not a huge struggle."

Tangie's Just Like Mommy Childcare Center has already required coverings for those 5 years old and above. The Milwaukee mask mandate will put masks on those as young as 3 years old.

Jennifer Pierce

"Kids want to be together, they don't really understand separation -- 'Well I gotta be over here by myself' -- they don't really get that," said Center Director Jennifer Pierce.

It's one more challenge after COVID-19 left fewer kids at their family business and other child care centers. The industry does have some flexibility -- if they have a mitigation plan approved by the city health commissioner.

"Daycares do operate as a family, so to speak. So they often times are a little bit of a bubble," said Dr. Heather Paradis, deputy commissioner for medical services with the Milwaukee Health Department.

It's a bubble that is learning piece by piece and still picking things up -- just like everyone else.

Tangie's Just Like Mommy Childcare Center

"As crazy as it is for us, it is like way crazier for them. They don't know what's going on," Pierce said of the children. "We try to make them comfortable."

The child care facility has two other locations that are not in Milwaukee, but all of its locations will have masks on kids as young as 3 years old. The health department said data show fewer kids are transmitting the virus among each other; rather, if a kid gets it, it is oftentimes from an adult in their household.