The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance for operating child care programs in several areas including expanded background on what is known about COVID-19 and transmission in child care settings, recommendations for mask use and information for children with special needs and disabilities.
The new guidance, which is intended for all types of child care programs, including child care centers, family child care homes, Head Start programs and other pre-kindergarten programs, marks the first update since July.
"Throughout the pandemic parents and caregivers have faced the challenging task of balancing child care responsibilities with work responsibilities often operating in a virtual environment with limited child care options," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said in a White House COVID-19 briefing Friday. "We know that child care programs and early child education are essential to healthy childhood development. The services these programs offer are important for working parents and provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment for kids to get them ready for school and develop critical social and emotional skills."
Walensky said the pandemic posed a challenge to child care centers, and that over the summer as more information about the virus became available, the CDC updated the guidance several times.
"Today, CDC is again releasing updated guidance based on the most recent science," Walensky said. "That science includes additional evidence showing that when used consistently and correctly, prevention strategies such as mask-wearing, staying home when sick and good hand hygiene can allow childcare programs to operate safely and reduce the spread of COVID-19."
The updated guidance also emphasizes the "importance of mask-wearing for children older than 2 years old, and all staff, except when eating and sleeping," Walensky said.
The update, which coincides with several states lifting mask mandates, recommends that staff "teach and reinforce the consistent and correct" use of masks, and that masks are not a substitute for physical distancing.
"Wearing a mask is especially important indoors and when physical distancing is difficult to implement or maintain when providing care to young children," the guidance states.
It also discourages the use of face shields or goggles as a substitute for masks, and reiterates that plastic face shields or masks should not be placed on newborns or infants.
Walensky said the updates include toolkits and information on ventilation recommendations and should serve as a one-stop shop for childcare providers.