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Further Guidance on the Reopening of Childcare Facilities
1. Statewide Orders Regarding the Reopening of Childcare Facilities
On May 12, 2020, the Governor modified the statewide Shelter-in-Place order to permit childcare facilities that comply with statewide industry guidance to operate for children of all workers (rather than only for children of essential workers) unless local orders prohibited this. Since this order was modified, some counties have modified their local Shelter-in-Place orders to permit childcare facilities to provide services for all children of all workers. However, many counties have orders in place that are more restrictive and that only permit childcare services be provided to children of essential workers, or in some cases, for those workers who are permitted by their county order to work outside the home. It is important that schools review their local order to determine the limits on the operation of childcare facilities within their jurisdiction.
2. Effect of Orders on K-12 Operations
Importantly, the current statewide orders regarding childcare facilities do not state that K-12 schools may open. Under the current statewide order, K-12 schools may operate for purposes of distance learning, provision of school meals, or care and supervision of minors to support the essential workforce. The State’s County Variance webpage indicates the counties approved by the state to move more quickly through Stage 2 of the reopening process because they have met the specified readiness criteria, will be able to open schools once statewide guidance is issued. At this time, the state has not issued guidance regarding the reopening of K-12 schools, and many counties did not indicate in their variance plans that they would open schools as part of Stage 2. We note that the CDC has recently issued guidance for K-12 schools, which is accessible here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html.
3. Statewide Requirements for the Reopening of Childcare Facilities
The statewide industry guidance provides that before reopening, all facilities must:
- Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan;
- Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them;
- Implement individual control measures and screenings;
- Implement disinfecting protocols; and
- Implement physical distancing guidelines.
In addition, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued statewide industry guidance that childcare facilities must comply: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/CCLD/PINs/2020/CCP/PIN_20-06-CCP.pdf. The California Department of Social Services has also issued FAQs for childcare facilities regarding COVID-19: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/CCLD/PINs/2020/CCP/PIN-20-11-CCP.pdf
The CDC has issued guidance for childcare facilities, which is accessible here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html. The CDC guidance includes a decision tree for childcare facilities to review when deciding whether or not to reopen: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/Childcare-Decision-Tree.pdf.
Pursuant to the CDSS guidelines, childcare facilities that open must comply with numerous requirements, including the following, which we have highlighted below:
A. Maintaining Groups of No More Than 10 and Implementing Social Distancing Policies
The CDSS states that children should remain in groups as small as possible, not to exceed 10 in a group and facilities must also comply with the staff/child ratios set forth in the guidance. The CDSS notes that it is important to keep the same children and teacher or staff with each group and include children from the same family in the same group, to the greatest extent possible.
The CDSS guidance requires facilities to implement social distancing practices, and makes the following recommendations:
- Extend the indoor environment to outdoors, and bring the class outside, weather permitting.
- Open windows to ventilate facilities before and after children arrive.
- Arrange developmentally appropriate activities for smaller group activities and rearrange furniture and play spaces to maintain 6-feet separation, when possible. The CDSS states that providers should find creative ways to use yarn, masking tape, or other materials for children to create their own space.
- Offer more opportunities for individual play and solo activities, such as fine motor activities (i.e., drawing, coloring, cutting, puzzles, and other manipulatives).
- Plan activities that do not require close physical contact between multiple children.
- Stagger indoor and outdoor play and adjust schedules to reduce the number of children in the same area.
The CDSS states that during napping, cots must be spaced 6 feet apart from each other, and to arrange the head of each bed alternately, in opposite directions, to lessen the possible spread of illness between children from coughing or sneezing.
B. Screening All Employees and Students on a Daily Basis for Symptoms
The CDSS states that childcare facilities must follow daily procedures for screening of all staff and children for symptoms, which should include taking their temperature before arriving to work or beginning care. The CDSS recommends as a best practice that providers take children’s temperature each morning only if the facility uses a no-touch thermometer, and that the no-touch thermometer be wiped with an alcohol wipe after each use. If anyone has a temperature of 100.4°F/38°C or higher, they must be excluded from the facility. The CDSS states that if a touch-method thermometer is used, that it only be used when a fever is suspected. The CDSS further states that thermometers must be properly cleaned and disinfected after each use.
While the CDSS guidelines do not discuss the screening of parents who enter the facility, the guidelines state that anyone who has a temperature of 100.4 should be excluded from the facility. Thus, we recommend that childcare facilities follow the same screening procedures for parents that enter the facility to ensure that no one entering the facility has a temperature of 100.4 or higher.
C. Drop Off/Pick Up Procedures
The CDSS sets forth the following guidance for drop off and pick up of children at childcare facilities:
- Ask caregivers and parents to meet at the facility entryway for pick-up and drop-off of children whenever possible.
- Explain to parents and caregivers that all visits should be as brief as possible.
- Ask parents or caregivers to enter and exit the room one person at a time to allow for social and physical distancing.
- Ask parents and caregivers to wash their own hands and assist in washing the hands of their children before drop off, prior to coming for pick up, and when they get home.
- Ask parents and caregivers to bring their own pens when signing children in and out.
- Install hand sanitizers, out of the reach of children, near all entry doors and other high traffic areas.
In addition to following CDC guidelines for disinfecting (which is accessible here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/clean-disinfect/index.html), the CDSS states the following procedures should be implemented by facilities:
- Implement procedures to frequently clean all touched surfaces.
- Have multiple toys and manipulatives accessible that are easy to clean and sanitize throughout the day.
- Limit the amount of sharing.
- Designate a tub for toys that need to be cleaned and wiped after use.
4. Local Requirements
Childcare facilities must also comply with their local orders and requirements, in addition to the statewide industry guidance. It is important that schools carefully review the local orders and requirements in addition to the statewide industry guidance regarding operating childcare facilities. In the event of a conflict, statewide guidance is controlling, although local jurisdictions have the discretion to issue stricter requirements.