As many families with young children settle into their “back to school” routines, the Erie County Department of Health is offering parents and caregivers a set of questions to ask child care centers about their health and safety practices related to COVID-19. These include:
√ What is your center’s policy on mask use for staff, children and others who enter the building?
√ How do you screen staff, parents, children and vendors who enter your center for COVID-19 symptoms?
√ Are child care center staff fully vaccinated? Do all staff know how to access COVID-19 testing?
√ Do center staff rotate to different rooms during the day or during the week?
√ Does the center have a process for having staff return to work, or children return to care, following illness?
“Most children in child care settings are too young, under 12 years of age, to be eligible for COVID vaccination,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “This group of children is particularly vulnerable to infection.”
She continued, “Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommends that early care and education programs implement universal mask use in areas that have substantial or high COVID-19 transmission, and the importance of layered COVID-19 prevention strategies to protect adults and children in these settings. We are strongly encouraging child care centers to follow these strategies. Doing so will help reduce the risk for COVID-19 infections in their facilities, and in the community’s school settings and youth sports programs.”
As reported by ECDOH for the week ending Sept. 11, the highest positivity rates continue to be in persons under age 19; the 5-10 and 14-17-year-old age groups each had positivity rates of more than 7% for the week ending Sept. 11. The 11-13-year-old age group’s positivity rate was nearly 10%. These data are provided with the note that these younger age groups tend to have lower overall test report numbers than adult age groups. The ECDOH office of epidemiology has noted clusters of COVID-19 cases associated with child care centers in late August and early September. This coincides with a nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases for youth and adolescents, both in sheer numbers and as a percentage of overall cases.
ECDOH explained its pre-K-grade 12 guidance for schools to child care center directors in a virtual meeting Sept. 8, and also shared that guidance with child care centers through the Erie County Department of Social Services and the Child Care Resource Network.
All pre-kindergarten programs are included in current ECDOH school guidance, including school-affiliated or independent pre-Ks. The department said, “Though child care centers providing day care are not required to follow this guidance, it does include important, strong recommendations that can be used in child care settings. Child care centers with questions about how ECDOH guidance applies to their programs may contact [email protected].”
√ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child care guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/child-care-guidance.html
√ ECDOH, COVID-19 vaccine information and clinic schedule: http://www.erie.gov/vax
√ ECDOH, COVID-19 information Line: 716-858-2929 – foreign language interpretation available
√ ECDOH, COVID-19 weekly data updates: https://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=covid-19-media-data
√ Erie County COVID-19 wastewater testing: http://erie.gov/covid19-wastewater