Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Childcare centers are in uncharted territory as they try to figure out when — and how — to reopen without risking further coronavirus spread.

Why it matters: People can't go to work if their young kids aren't cared for, but the unknown effects of COVID-19 on children, and their role in transmitting it, adds more worry about the risks.

Researchers at Rutgers University released recommendations for slowly opening childcare centers, including:

  • Taking the temperatures of parents, children and staff before entering a center or home provider.
  • Eliminating sign-in procedures that require touch screens or pens.
  • Staggering drop-off times and assigning staff to greet each child.
  • Using personal protective equipment and disinfecting equipment after use.

Ideally, children of essential workers who regularly come in contact with coronavirus-infected individuals should be cared for by one individual at home instead of at a childcare center, they said.

Yes, but: It's unlikely even the best-intentioned centers could adhere to the guidelines 100% of the time.

  • A preferred option would be for centers to take a controlled approach to opening, using variations of class sizes and procedures while collecting data to determine what works best, said Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers.

Between the lines: Childcare providers will be under pressure to open as business starts to resume in several states. But some teachers are worried about returning to work too soon, and many childcare programs are not prepared.

Reality check: Budget cuts pose a considerable threat to many state-funded preschool and pre-K programs.

  • Low-income children and children of color will be disproportionately impacted by cuts — but it will also hurt more affluent kids if preschool goes virtual.
  • "Online preschool programs are cheap, but they have little impact on the learning that truly matters," Barnett said. "Computer programs are not a substitute for real preschool — young children learn best engaged in hands-on activities with adults and other children."

Why you'll hear about this again: Expect to see an increase in the number of children who are eligible for state-funded programs, where eligibility is often based on income. State budget shortfalls will make it impossible to meet the new demand.

  • Private centers will also have a hard time making ends meet.
  • “The economics are fragile in good times,” Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, told USA Today. “When a crisis like this hits, it is devastating to the childcare field.”

Go deeper

Updated Aug 9, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the U.S. surpassed 5 million on Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden noted in an emailed statement that 5 million "is more than the entire population of Alabama — or of more than half the states in our union, for that matter," as he blamed President Trump for his handling of the pandemic.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 20 million worldwide on Monday evening, Johns Hopkins data shows.

The big picture: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference as the world approached the milestone that 750,000 deaths were set to be recorded this week. "Every life lost matters," he said. "But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope and... it's never too late to turn the outbreak around."

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,094,565 — Total deaths: 163,465 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. Politics: Trump claims he would have not called for Obama to resign over 160,000 virus deathsHouse will not hold votes until Sept. 14 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. Business: Richer Americans are more comfortable eating out.
  5. Public health: 5 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — A dual coronavirus and flu threat is set to deliver a winter from hell.
  6. Sports: The cost of kids losing gym class — College football is on the brink.
  7. World: Europe's CDC recommends new restrictions amid "true resurgence in cases."