As an early education professional in today’s environment, you spend significant time and effort on preventing the spread of germs in your environment. As important as it is to take action to prevent the spread of viruses such as COVID-19 in your early learning environment, it’s also important to be prepared to respond to a positive case. Just thinking about the prospect of a case brings a flurry of potential decisions to mind. If you learn of a case, who needs to be notified? Should the classroom or program close? Do I need to ask families to quarantine? If so, for how long?
That’s why the Quality First Child Care Health Consultant program developed the Arizona Quality First Recommendations for Safe Child Care Operations During COVID-19 guide. The guide provides you with access to relevant information on national best practices, with practical strategies for implementation, all in one place. Recommendations are based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and the Caring for Our Children, 4th edition- National Health and Safety Performance Standards Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs.
This is the third in a series of posts highlighting the relevant topics you’ll find in the guide. The excerpt below focuses on helping you be prepared for a positive case in your program. You can view the full guide here.
Plan for Positive Cases
Review or create your plan for what to do if a staff member or child tests positive for COVID-19. Consider each of the following to determine if you currently have the process or plan in place or if it is possible for you. Each suggestion may reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Note: ADHS-Child care programs are required to report COVID-19 outbreaks* to the local health department within 24 hours of identification.
* An outbreak is defined as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period among individuals who are epidemiologically linked, do not share a household and are not close contacts of each other in another setting.
❑ Plan in place for training staff on policies and procedures to ensure all staff understand what to do. Staff know where to find the policies/protocols to reference as needed.
❑ Process in place to ask families and staff to report cases of COVID-19 in the household.
❑ Process in place to ask families, staff and visitors of any recent (last 14 days) close contact with someone who has tested positive. Close contact is defined as within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more.
❑ Process in place to monitor staff and children absences and illnesses for changes that may indicate increased infection.
❑ Process in place to notify the local health department and/or local/county jurisdiction of a staff or child who has tested positive for COVID-19.
❑ Process in place to notify families and staff, maintaining confidentiality of infected individual.
o State date of potential exposure.
o Check with your local health department or local/county jurisdiction to see if they have a Parent Alert notice available.
❑ Process in place to expand and/or reinforce mitigation strategies. Consider:
o Enhanced daily cleaning measures
o Physical distancing (meals, naptime, activities)
o Limiting sharing of equipment and materials
o Reduced number in classroom
o No contact or limiting contact between groups of children and staff
o Masks (staff and/or children)
o Other _________________________________________________________
❑ Plan in place for deep cleaning measures that may need to be taken. CDC Child Care: Have a Plan if Someone is or Becomes Sick
o Potential closing off of classroom short term (24 hours) before cleaning. Are there alternate locations for children to go while classroom is closed?
❑ Plan in place for COVID-19 testing recommendations or requirements for staff and/or children.
o Recommended: Have staff and families contact their local health care provider for testing and quarantine recommendations or they can call the Arizona COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-542-8201.
Note: Persons who have been in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) are generally recommended to quarantine for 14 days.
❑ Plan in place for potential staff shortages due to illness, quarantine or testing.
❑ Plan in place for flexible leave policies and practices.
❑ Plan in place for potential short term (2-5 days) or longer (14 days) closures of classroom or program.
Note: In most instances, a single case of COVID-19 in a child care program would not warrant closing the entire facility. Community spread and how much contact the person with COVID-19 had with others, as well as when such contact took place, need to be considered. If a positive case is identified, child care programs should work with their local health agency to determine next steps.