The Sunday evening announcement that schools would be canceled this Mar. 16 sent many parents into crisis mode to find childcare.
But thanks to quick planning by the incident command team at the Billings Clinic, essential healthcare works and first responders in Billings have a free and secure place to take their kids. The plan to use the Billings Public Library came together in a matter of hours.
Jim Duncan, part of the COVID-19 incident command team at the Billings Clinic, knew that childcare would become a critical need during this health emergency. Over the weekend the team was touring empty buildings near the hospital zone when they thought about the Billings Public Library.
"We made a call to the mayor, the city administrator and how ultimately got the library team involved. And they said absolutely, we'd like to help," Duncan said.
The situation changed rapidly on Sunday.
"Once the governor made his announcement last evening, our team spent the night into the wee hours of the morning working on a full plan that was up and ready to go at 6am this morning and we were able to start taking kids," Duncan said.
Part of the set-up included security measures and establishing a process to take temperature checks for staff and incoming kids.
Also on Sunday an outside cleaning service came to do a top to bottom cleaning, which they will also do each night. During the day the staff on hand will use the clinic’s supply of wipes and bleach and other cleaning supplies as needed.
This free childcare service is staffed by volunteers from Billings Clinic staff and available for essential workers from Billings Clinic, St Vincent Healthcare, RiverStone Health and local first responders.
While the library is closed to the public, Duncan says it’s an opportunity for some of these kids to get to know their library while their parents are grateful for a place for them to go.
"They are busy exploring the Billings Library in a very unique and awesome way to help keep essential community health care resources available to serve our public in a time of need for health," Duncan said.