Protecting Your Early Care and Education Program from COVID-19 and Other Infections

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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.

Everyday actions to prevent infections

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.

mother bending over to talk to her daughter

Before Drop-offEncourage families to monitor children at home for signs of infectious illness, including COVID-19. Children and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as flu, RSV, or COVID-19, should stay home and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.

Parents with a sick child

Educate FamiliesEducate families about when to keep their child home, such as when the child is sick.

A family getting vaccinated

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.

A person cleaning and disinfecting items

Cleaning and Disinfecting: Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces such as toys, door handles, tables, faucets, and drinking fountains regularly. Disinfect when someone is sick. Carefully follow rules for cleaning and disinfecting when diapering and feeding infants.

Ventilation systems

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.

a person separating their belongings

Personal Belongings: Keep each child’s belongings, including masks and toothbrushes, separated. Follow guidelines for safe toothbrushing in group settings.

A person washing their hands

Hand Hygiene: Wash hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Thoroughly dry hands after washing. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Isolating a sick person

Isolate a Sick Child: Plan to have an isolation room or an area you can use to isolate a sick child or staff member. Make sure isolated children still have adult supervision.

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.

a child being dropped off at school

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.

people wearing mask indoors

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).

children eating meals outdoors and separated

Mealtimes: Eat meals outdoors or in well ventilated areas while keeping physically distanced as much as possible.

A modified learning area with people separated

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.

A childcare napping area with sleeping areas spaced out

Nap Time: At nap time, ensure mats or cribs are spaced out as much as possible and have children sleep head to toe.

A daycare room with windows open for ventilation

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.

An outdoor play area for children

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.