Protecting Your Early Care and Education Program from COVID-19 and Other Infections
As an early care and education (ECE) provider, you can slow the spread of infections, such as influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or COVID-19, to help protect children, families, and staff, to support healthy learning environments.
CDC recommends ECE programs have everyday strategies to prevent the spread of infections as part of your normal operations, such as promoting vaccination, staying home when sick, optimizing ventilation, washing hands frequently, and following all rules on regular and consistent cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting.
Educate Families: Educate families about when to keep their child home, such as when the child is sick.
Vaccination: Staying up to date on routine vaccinations is essential to prevent illness from many different infections. For COVID-19, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is the leading public health strategy to prevent severe disease. Encourage staff, children, and families to get vaccinated as soon as they can.
Ventilation Systems: Optimize ventilation systems by repairing, upgrading, and replacing Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. Consider purchasing MERV-13 air filters and portable air cleaners.
Layered Prevention Strategies for Medium or High COVID-19 Community Levels:
Consider adding and layering COVID-19-specific prevention strategies when your local COVID-19 Community Levels increase, particularly if they are medium or high, or if you are experiencing an outbreak in your program. If the ECE program is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, they can consider taking additional actions, even if their COVID-19 Community Level is low. These prevention strategies could include wearing masks correctly and consistently.
Refer to Operational Guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning for more in-depth information about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other infections in the ECE setting. This CDC guidance is meant to supplement—not replace—any federal, state, tribal, local, or territorial public health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which ECE programs must comply.
Drop-off/Pick-up: Stagger child arrival, drop-off, and pick-up times or locations and prioritize outdoor drop-off and pick-up if possible.
Masks: When COVID-19 Community Levels are high, everyone 2 years of age and older should wear a well-fitting mask that covers the nose and mouth, except when eating or sleeping. At all levels, choose masking based on individual risk or place (e.g., nurse’s office).
Mealtimes: Eat meals outdoors or in well ventilated areas while keeping physically distanced as much as possible.
Reduce crowding: Modify learning stations and in-classroom activities, use available space, and stagger schedules to have fewer children in each area as much as possible.
Nap Time: At nap time, ensure mats or cribs are spaced out as much as possible and have children sleep head to toe.
Ventilation Improvements: Use as many ways to bring in fresh air or improve air filtration as possible, such as opening windows, going outdoors, using child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows, or using portable air cleaners with HEPA filters when feasible and safe. This also may include opening windows on ECE transportation vehicles.
Outdoor Play Spaces: Being outdoors reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19. Prioritize outdoor activities whenever possible. Avoid crowding. Follow routine cleaning of outdoor areas.