State officials outline precautions as child care facilities ramp up reopening

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette First through third graders work on homework at Paddington Station Tuesday. The preschool and daycare has remained open through the COVID-19 pandemic, but with strict guidelines including taking temperatures, and frequent hand washing. Children wash their hands when entering and leaving the building, before and after eating, and any time they touch their face.

The children are back — but with more hand-washing, social distancing and staggered drop-off and pick-up times, among other “yellow phase” precautions.

Secretary Teresa Miller, Department of Human Services, and Tracey Campanini, deputy secretary for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, addressed how the phases of reopening affect child care and child care facilities Monday in a teleconference.

“As of this past Friday, we have 24 Pennsylvania counties that have moved from the red phase to the yellow phase,” Miller said. “The governor announced last week that an additional 13 counties will move to the yellow phase. For the child care industry, this yellow phase in the governor’s plan is significant.”

She added that child care centers across the state were directed to close under the stay-at-home order, but OCDEL saw a need for child care for essential workers during this time, helping provide a waiver for child care facilities to utilize to reopen even in the red phase.

“Many child care providers were motivated to remain open throughout this crisis because they felt a sense of duty to the families to help health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees and other essential workers,” Miller added. “The resource of safe and stable child care is so crucial to the daily functioning of our commonwealth.”

Miller also said that as of May 5, 1,529 child care providers have continued to operate in the state.

“When a county moves to the yellow phase in the Governor’s plan, all child care providers are permitted to reopen without a waiver,” Miller said.

Miller continued by saying that DHS and OCDEL will continue to help providers through the reopening process if need be, including a webinar including guidance, Center for Disease Control information and different advice suggested by CDC.

Some of CDC’s guidelines and recommendations include the already necessary hand hygiene, social distancing and staying-at-home-if-sick measures, but also include having children and staff maintain learning and care within the same group of peers and staff, staggering drop off and pick up times and making sure that there is a plan in place if a child or staff were to have contract with COVID-19.

Campanini also added that masking tends to be difficult with children and should be used for children over the age of two, if feasible. She added that children younger than two should not wear masks due to further complications and possible issues with breathing.

If a child or staff member within the facility were to have the virus, Campanini suggests reporting that information to the Department of Health, take action and clean the premises according to CDC guidelines and look into follow-up decisions.

“They may make the decision to seize operations depending on what the conversation with the Department of Health is,” she said.

In addition, Miller added that the state did receive $100 million in support for child care. Though not many details on that money has been provided yet, Miller added that DHS is working with the Governor’s office to distribute funds and work on specific legislature regarding it.


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