Childcare workers in all 50 states are struggling to balance the needs of families who suddenly find their children home from school every day with the health and safety of those children in a business model built on close interaction and collective space. At least 12 states have closed all childcare facilities, while families in others are desperately relying on them, according to a report on NPR.

Stephanie Ortega, the director of the ABC Little School in Los Angeles, articulates those dueling anxieties: “I have parents that are upset that I’m open, and I have parents that are in need of me being open.”

In those centers that are still looking after children, caretakers are being asked to implement and manage specific coronavirus prevention guidelines, including limiting classrooms to no more than 10 people at a time, placing an extra seat in between each child during lunch, and keeping new students separate from existing ones.

Many centers, however, have already shuttered, including 36% of those in Los Angeles County “The fear of spreading the virus was huge,” says Sarah Soriano, the executive director of Young Horizons Child Development Centers in Long Beach. In her experience, many of the safety recommendations, like keeping all children six feet apart, were impossible to implement in a center with dozens of children from infancy to preschool.

“We did everything we could up to the moment that we couldn’t,” she says.

Many childcare workers are used to working for low wages – $11 per hour is the national average, and so the loss of work is even more trying; but many are proud of the contribution they’re making in the fight against the coronavirus for as long as they can make it: “We’re providing an essential service so that these families can go out and save lives.”

Read more about the difficult choices facing childcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic here.