When the pandemic began, many parents rushed to keep their children home because of the uncertain effect COVID-19 would have on the youth. Since then, experts have found that children can contract and spread the virus. Experts are still researching the long-term effects of COVID-19, and a kid-safe vaccine is being developed. Between the COVID-19 findings over the past year and the recent push to return to normal, many parents are considering resuming childcare for their kids. Before you make the jump, here’s what you need to know to make the best decision for you and your family.
COVID-19 and Children
Infants and children are at risk for COVID-19, but most have mild symptoms. Children can still spread the virus to adults, who are often at a greater risk of severe illness. Parents should keep an eye out for signs that resemble common colds, like a mild fever and cough, and keep their child home if they are suspected to be sick. Since children can catch and spread the virus in childcare facilities, the decision to send children back to daycare is not an easy one. However, with proper precautions, many daycare centers remained open during the pandemic and still are today. Childcare workers have increased safety protocols to help keep children and their families safe.
COVID-19 Childcare Safety Protocols
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance for childcare programs to operate safely and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. If you’re considering sending your child to daycare or a Pre-K program, here’s what you should expect:
- Requiring children to stay home if they are sick or suspected of having COVID-19. Some daycares require a negative COVID-19 test before returning. Beware that children who have been around someone with COVID-19 may be asked to quarantine before returning to daycare.
- Mask requirements for childcare workers and children over the age of two. Avoid putting face coverings or shields over newborns or infants to prevent them from catching COVID-19. It could impact their ability to breathe.
- Increased sanitization of frequently touched surfaces. Some daycares use air filtration systems to clear out germs or the virus and electrostatic sprayers to disinfect toys, chairs and other commonly used items. Childcare workers should disinfect playgrounds and areas used by other classes after each class.
- Keeping toys and personal items separate from other children’s belongings. You may notice space between cubbies or crates that hold jackets, blankets or other items.
- No entry inside the facility to drop off and pick up children. Childcare workers may meet you outside to screen for COVID-19 symptoms and escort your child inside. If you’d like to meet with the teacher, you’ll likely have to schedule a video conference or phone call. Some daycares also use apps to check-in and communicate with parents.
- Fewer or no field trips. Your daycare may also prohibit visitors from other organizations or groups. These activities may be virtual instead.
- Frequent hand washing for your child and staff to prevent the spread of germs.
Teachers and childcare workers are now also eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s still unknown whether or not schools and childcare facilities will require vaccines from childcare workers. This also includes school janitors, bus drivers, administrators, and cafeteria workers.
Create a COVID-19 Backup Plan
Your childcare provider or child could become sick with COVID-19. If so, your daycare facility should notify you. It’s essential to make sure the correct contact information is listed so that you know how they’ll contact you, just in case. Before sending your child back to daycare, come up with a plan if your child’s class must quarantine or your child is sick. Here are a few thoughts to consider in your plan:
- Communicate with your manager about paid time off to care for your child during this time.
- Keep all essentials handy in case your child becomes sick, including medication, a thermometer and food.
- Consider any special accommodations for children with disabilities or health concerns, including medication, and what to look out for if your child is immunocompromised.
- If your child’s daycare provider or school chooses to continue with virtual learning, make sure you have the proper software and technology to do so.
- Ensure you understand your child’s requirements to return to school, including a negative COVID-19 test, 24 hours fever-free without medication or completing the requested quarantine period.
Questions to Ask Your Daycare Before Returning
It’s natural for parents to be hesitant to send their child back to daycare without answers to a few key questions or concerns. Your daycare provider should have all the information and resources needed to make a comfortable decision on whether or not now is a good time to send your child.
- What is the daycare’s policy if someone in the facility becomes infected with COVID-19? How will you notify me?
- Does the daycare have a vaccine policy?
- What social distancing measures are in place to keep children and staff safe?
- What sanitation measures are in place to keep areas clean after each use?
- Are staff and children required to wear masks?
- Are visitors allowed in the building? If so, under what circumstances?
- What are the drop-off and pickup policies at this time?
Feel free to ask any other questions that may come to mind and help you decide what is best for you and your child.
Returning to Daycare During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Parents have made difficult decisions throughout the pandemic for the safety and well-being of their children. Decisions going forward won’t be easy, but your potential daycare will equip you with the right resources and support to do what’s best for you and your child. Remember to make the decision that gives you the best peace of mind for your health and safety.