‘Children will not be wearing masks’ at Bright Horizons’ child-care centers, CEO says

Health, Fitness & Food

Bright Horizons CEO Stephen Kramer told CNBC on Thursday that “children will not be wearing masks'” at its child-care facilities as the company reopens locations from coronavirus-driven closures. 

“I think it is absolutely understood that the idea of young children wearing masks is not productive and ultimately causes more challenge than it does good, in that the children are constantly fidgeting, touching their face and ultimately are not comfortable wearing masks,” Kramer said on “Squawk on the Street.”  

Staff and teachers at Bright Horizons’ facilities are required to wear masks, Kramer said. He said the company is encouraging parents to have conversations with their children in advance, so they are comfortable with it. The advice is to tell kids that “heroes wear masks,” Kramer said. 

“Our teachers are heroes, and so the children see their teachers as heroes and that makes that adaption a bit easier, and certainly children are very resilient in that way,” Kramer said. 

Public health experts say wearing a mask can reduce transmission of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face coverings in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain. 

A sign in the window of Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool notes that the child care center is closed on Apr. 2, 2020 in the Seaport District of Boston.

David L. Ryan | The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Kramer said Bright Horizons is taking a number of safety precautions at its child-care facilities, while acknowledging the difficulty of maintaining social distance among kids. “Part of the experience of coming to a child-care center is that social experience,” he said. 

Snacks will be individually wrapped, for example, but the precautions really begin at arrival, when parents and children will undergo health checks, Kramer said. “We really, first and foremost, are looking to make sure that the children who are attending the programs are healthy, and the same is true for our staff.” 

Child care has been in focus throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, as schools shifted to remote instruction and parents and guardians began to work from home. Now, as states across the U.S. ease coronavirus-related restrictions and some parents are called back to their job sites, the reopening of child-care facilities takes on heightened importance. 

Bright Horizons has operated 150 child-care centers in the U.S. during the pandemic, but more than half its locations had to be closed. The company also operates in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. 

“We absolutely are starting our reopening plans, and so families and employers that have always relied upon us are going to start to see us reopening our centers in the summer and into the fall,” Kramer said.  

Kramer also said he is not worried that some permanent adoption of work-from-home policies will impact the child-care business. He said the last few months have been “incredibly challenging” for families as parents balance productivity at work and being the primary daytime caregiver for their kids. 

“On balance, families are very excited for us to reopen, regardless of whether or not their offices are reopening,” Kramer said. 

Shares of Watertown, Massachusetts-based Bright Horizons were trading down more than 2% on Thursday near $114 each. The stock is down about 23% so far this year but has rallied about 78% from its mid-March low of $64.23. 

Disclosure: Bright Horizons does business with NBCUniversal and CNBC’s parent company, Comcast. 

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