The COVID-19 public health crisis is heightening awareness of child care as a core foundational need for both working parents and employers. Under typical circumstances, parents need accessible, safe and affordable child care so they can work. Employers also need quality child care options for their employees for their business to work. This year (2020) has been anything but typical. The COVID-19-induced erosion of an already broken child care system is having critical impacts on both parents with young children and their employers.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on July 15, 2020 but has since been updated with information from a new alert from the FDA about sanitizers that include isopropyl alcohol as an ingredient.
Child care providers implement hand hygiene procedures to keep children in care, their families and themselves healthy and well. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased hand hygiene vigilance in child care programs to protect against viral spread. Health experts recommend using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol when hand washing with soap is not feasible. Hand sanitizer that once was extremely difficult to access early on in the coronavirus crisis, now is increasingly becoming more available. As a result of the pandemic, new hand sanitizer brands and products are being introduced into the consumer market. Unfortunately, some of the emerging hand sanitizer products are not safe to use, prompting alerts by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
A few months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) surveyed Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies. In response to the survey, 163 CCR&R professionals from 41 states relayed the most pressing concerns they are hearing from child care providers. Locating and purchasing disinfecting supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) were among the top 5 concerns.
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA) developed a decision flow diagram to aid decision making surrounding temporarily closing child care programs due to health and safety concerns. CCAoA’s flow diagram was adapted from a school-age program decision aid developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now we are several months into COVID-19 and child care programs that have been able to remain open face continued uncertainty. A critical unknown is if child care programs contribute to community COVID-19 transmission. Presently, researchers at Yale University are conducting a study to determine the implications of child care programs that remain open or closed during COVID-19.
Like no other time in the history of child care, coronavirus (COVID-19) is challenging child care professionals to make difficult decisions about closing their programs temporarily and then determining when and how to reopen. These decisions are critical to protecting the health and safety of all enrolled children and their families as well as program staff and their household members.
Aside from state/local mandates for child care programs, reopening decisions are complicated by numerous factors: Will children be enrolled who have easily compromised immune system health or who have conditions, like asthma, that put them at enhanced risk for poor COVID-19 outcomes if exposed to the virus? Are child care program staff comfortable with potentially being on the front lines of coronavirus as they are in close quarters with children when providing care? Can cleaning, sanitizing and personal protective equipment be sourced and will it be affordable for child care programs for as long as it is needed? How do continuously shifting community transmission rates and many other COVID-19 unknowns factor in to decision making to re-open doors to children and their families?
Among the highest priorities for families with young children is the desire to keep their children safe from harm, healthy, happy and well. While many families are keeping their children at home right now, states are slowly starting to re-open. But is it safe for a child to be in a group early childhood setting?