As Douglas County gets ready to reopen certain businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, new rules for child care providers around the state were released Wednesday which remain strict in an effort to focus on public health.
“The thing about COVID-19 is, it’s such high stakes,” said Dr. Ann Thomas, a senior health advisor for the Oregon Health Authority. “Keeping people healthy is more critical than it’s ever been.”
The changes that will go into effect Friday are:
- Flexibility in stable group sizes. Child care facilities can watch groups of 10 children at one time, but can have a pool of 12 children to rotate into programs when needed.
- Serving more people. Under previous guidelines only essential workers were eligible to receive child care. As of Friday, all people who are going to work can use child care, although preference will still be given to essential workers.
- Children with a fever at or above 100.4 degrees will need to stay home for a minimum of 10 days and be symptom free for 72 hours.
- Temperature checks will no longer be done at entry into the program. Under the new guidance parents will be asked whether a child has had a fever.
- People who go from classroom to classroom, or those who do health checks, are recommended to wear masks.
- Child care providers will need to keep a record of people coming into the facility in case of an outbreak.
Programs will need to be approved by the Office of Child Care to operate as an Emergency Child Care facility and follow health and safety guidelines established by the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division.
Child care providers can continue to apply to be an Emergency Child Care facility. Amy Joyce, director of the Office of Child Care, said it takes a day or two to hear back on applications for Emergency Child Care and that no more pop-ups would be approved.
Child care providers who were not open were asked to take a survey last week and of the 893 responses, 49% said they were not open because of health and safety concerns, 27% cited they could not afford to care for the reduced group sizes, 12% had trouble finding families who needed care, 7% worried about supplies and personal protective equipment, and 5% did not have the staff to stay open.
Child care continues to be offered at some school sites as well. Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon said the district does not expect to open additional slots.
All child care providers must ensure that the groups are stable, which means the same adult watches the same groups each day.
For child care facilities those guidelines include no more than 10 children per registered family, but of the 10 total children there can be no more than six children younger than preschool age and no more than two children under 24 months.
If a child care is operated from a residence, household members that do not assist in the child care program need to physically distance themselves from the children throughout the day. However, if people in the home assist with the child care they need to be counted as part of the stable group.
For certified family there can be two stable groups of up to 10 children in separate areas of the home, but no more than 16 children total. Each group would need a space of 35 square feet per child.
Only one group of children would be allowed in a shared space, such as the bathroom or dining room, at a time.
A certified center can have a classroom of up to 10 children, while still meeting the minimum 35 square feet per child space. A room for children six weeks to 23 months may have no more than eight children.
Children can only be moved from one group to another if it happens on a permanent basis, such as aging out of a program.
All programs need to continue following strict sanitization protocols, stagger arrival and drop-off times to limit contact between families, provide on-going training and require floater staff and those who conduct daily health check of the children to wear face coverings.
The guidance, with one caveat, is also applicable to early learning programs for children under the age of 5 such as respite care, summer school, kindergarten transition and recorded programs. The one difference is that those programs are not expected to prioritize families based on occupation.
Guidance specific to school-age summer camps will be released Friday by the governor’s office.