As New York City continues to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, child care centers will be essential for parents who are returning to work. But many parents may be wondering what resources child care centers will be utilizing and what measures they will be taking to keep kids safe. They may also be wondering whether to send their child or find an in-home caregiver.
When deciding whether to send your children to a day care, ultimately it comes down to what’s right for your family.
“Health care workers and employees can’t mandate that you do or don’t send your children to day care,” says Sharon Nachman, M.D., chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook University. “I think [parents] have to find that happy medium for themselves, and you know our jobs as parents is to go back to work and the job of children is to be children.”
Sophia Jan, M.D., head of General Pediatrics for Cohen Children’s Medical Center, also encourages parents and caregivers to think about the implications on other household members in the case their child becomes exposed. “The vast majority of children, even if they contract coronavirus or become an asymptomatic carrier, tend to have more mild symptoms,” she says. “I think a major thing to consider is, do you have other high-risk members in your household? What can you be doing to protect other high-risk members of your family?”
Child Care Resources: How will child care centers keep kids safe from the coronavirus?
If you do decide to send your child to a day care, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Governor’s office have posted extremely detailed guidelines for reopening child care centers, which will ensure the utmost safety of children and staff. Among those recommendations are:
- The same caregiver should drop off and pick up the child every day. Individuals who are at higher risk should not be on drop-off or pickup duty.
- Staggered drop-off and pickup times are highly recommended. Caregivers should plan to limit direct contact with staff as much as possible.
- Center employees, the children, and parents will be screened daily to see if they’ve had COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days, a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days, and/or close or proximate contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in the past 14 days.
- Children will be checked for a temperature each day and those with a fever of 100.4° or higher, or who have other signs of illness, should not be admitted to the facility.
- The child care program should have policies on how to disinfect the building or facility if a child does get sick.
- Child care groups must be limited to 10 children. It’s advised to keep children in the same group each day with the same child care provider. It is also recommended that centers create a separate classroom for children of health care workers and other first responders.
- Employees must wear a face covering any time they are interacting with children or are unable to maintain proper social distance. While Dr. Nachman suspects most children are used to adults wearing masks, she says it would not be a terrible idea for child care providers to wear masks with fun designs to make children more comfortable.
- Children’s naptime mats must be spaced out as much as possible (ideally 6 feet apart).
- Non-essential visitors should be prohibited from visiting the center.
- Employees and children will be encouraged to limit the sharing of objects and discourage touching of shared surfaces. When in contact with frequently touched areas, employees will be required to wear gloves or practice hand hygiene before and after contact.
- Employees and children must perform hand hygiene regularly throughout the day, including immediately upon arriving, between program activities, after using the restroom, before eating, and before departing.
- Centers should routinely clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, especially toys, games, doorknobs, and floors.
- Facilities are advised to limit children’s use of toys that can’t be cleaned or sanitized.
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Child Care Resources: How will child care centers keep children younger than 2 safe?
Children ages 2 and younger cannot wear any kind of face covering because of the danger of suffocation. When taking care of infants and toddlers, child care providers should follow the above guidelines in addition to the following:
- When diapering a child, staff should wash their and the child’s hands before, wear gloves, and regularly disinfect the diaper-changing area.
- Infants, toddlers, and providers should have multiple changes of clothes on hand. Clothes should be changed if they become soiled with any bodily fluids. Contaminated clothes should be placed in a plastic bag until they’re able to be washed.
- Child care providers must wash their hands before and after handling infant bottles. Bottles, bottle caps, nipples, and other equipment used for bottle-feeding should be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
Resources for Parents: What should parents do to prepare their kids to return to day care?
In preparing for a return to day care, parents should teach their kids to wash their hands properly before and after every activity, and to refrain from touching their face. Use kid-friendly child care resources like Sesame Street’s Caring for Eachother resources and MarMar Land’s “Life Skills in the Age of COVID-19,” so your kids can better understand the importance of implementing these habits.
“If you can teach and build these two habits…that will go a long way,” Dr. Jan says. She also believes teaching children older than 2 to keep face coverings on would be extremely beneficial and help in protecting themselves and others around them.
She urges parents to monitor their children regularly while home for any signs of illness. Caregivers and parents must be open and honest about any potential illness they, their family, or their children may develop to keep everyone at the child care center safe.
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