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Child Care

Child care safety guidance for parents, operators and staff.
Last updated: August 26, 2021

Child care settings are low risk settings for COVID-19. This is because there are effective health and safety measures in place, and most people in the setting (young children) are unlikely to be infected with COVID-19.


Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings will be reviewed in September 2021. Child care operators should continue to implement the Public Health Guidance issued in February 2021, as well as any related Provincial Health Officer Orders.

Attending Child Care Safely

Do a daily health check

Daily health checks help make sure nobody comes to child care when they are sick or required to self-isolate. Everyone should complete a daily health check before they enter a child care setting. This includes staff, parents/caregivers and children. 
  • For children, parents/caregivers can use the When to get tested for COVID-19 resource or the BC Self-Assessment Tool.
    • Parents/caregivers can also encourage child(ren) to share when they are not feeling well. 
  • Child care operators should regularly remind staff and parents/caregivers about their responsibility to do a daily health check before coming to child care.  
Find the latest information about COVID-19 at bccdc.ca/covid19. This includes possible symptoms and information about COVID-19 in children.

Practice personal health and safety measures 

Personal health and safety measures help keep the risk of COVID-19 in child care settings low. 

For adults, these include:
  • Physical distancing: limit close contact with others and minimize close, prolonged, face-to-face interactions when possible. This is especially important when interacting with other adults.
  • Frequent hand hygiene: washing your hands or using hand sanitizer often.
  • Respiratory etiquette: covering your coughs and sneezes. 
  • Completing a daily health check and staying home when sick or required to self-isolate. 
Children can be supported to practice personal health and safety measures at child care:
  • Organize activities that encourage individual play and more space between children and staff. 
  • Help children practice hand hygiene often, especially before and after using commonly touched surfaces (e.g. the bathroom, the playground, etc.). 
  • Help children practice respiratory etiquette, including sneezing/coughing into the elbow and throwing out used tissues right away. 
  • Encourage telling staff if they’re not feeling well. 

Frequently Asked Questions


Health and safety measures in place at the worksites of essential service workers reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading. These measures plus the health and safety measures in child care settings mean that there is no increased likelihood of getting COVID-19 when providing care for the children of essential service workers compared to children of non-essential service workers.  

 
Children from different schools can still attend before- and after-care together.

Child care providers may wish to consider grouping children together who are in the same grade and attend the same school, where possible. 
The Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings outlines the health and safety measures that should be in place to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading. These guidelines apply to all child care settings, including those in personal homes. 

Child care operators should review the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings to determine how the measures can be applied in their setting. 

Additional information is also available from WorkSafeBC

Health and Safety Measures

Limit interactions

Child care settings can do the following to reduce the number of different interactions people have in a day:
  • Reduce the time or mixing of age groups for the first and last half hour of the day.
  • Limit the number of visitors to those providing care or supporting a child. 
  • Stagger pick-up and drop-off times, as well as break and snack/meal times. 
  • For larger facilities that have more than one care program, consider having smaller groups where possible. Staff scheduling should be arranged for staff to remain in the same group. 

Physical distancing

Child care settings have enough space to support physical distancing. There is no need to reduce the number of children attending care at any given time. 

Adults should practice physical distancing whenever possible.
  • When interacting with adults, staff and other adults should reduce close, prolonged, face-to-face interactions. If physical distance can’t be maintained, a mask should be worn.
  • When interacting with children, staff and other adults should minimize unnecessary physical contact. Adults may choose to wear a mask when interacting closely with children, recognizing the importance of facial expressions and movements on children’s learning and development.  
Children are not expected to practice physical distancing. Contact between children is important to their emotional, physical and developmental needs. Child care settings should seek to reduce physical contact between children by:
  • Using all of the space available 
  • Organizing more activities that encourage individual play
  • Encouraging children to keep their hands to themselves

Hand hygiene

Cleaning hands regularly (called hand hygiene) helps reduce the spread of illness, including COVID-19. This can be washing hands with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. 


Child care settings should provide regular opportunities for staff and children to clean their hands, including:
  • Before and after eating
  • After using the toilet and/or changing diapers
  • Before and after using shared toys or supplies (e.g. playground equipment, sand, etc.)
Post hand-washing posters for staff and children to follow. 

Learn more about hand hygiene and hand washing on the BCCDC website. Additional information for parents and children is available here.

Cleaning

Child care settings should be cleaned and disinfected regularly using a product from Health Canada’s hard-surface disinfectants.

This includes daily cleaning of the child care space, with frequently touched surfaces (e.g. door knobs, light switches, toilet handles, etc.) cleaned twice a day. At least one of these cleanings should occur during hours of operation. 

Surfaces should also be cleaned whenever they are visibly dirty. 

Consider limiting the use of frequently-touched items that cannot be easily cleaned: 
  • Toys, manipulatives, and other items that are not easily cleaned (e.g. sand, foam, playdough, etc.) can continue being used if hand hygiene is practiced before and after use.
  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted via paper, books, or other paper-based products, and low risk of transmission for laminated or glossy paper-based products and items with plastic covers. 
  • Ask parents/caregivers to only bring comfort items (e.g. stuffed animals, blankets) if they are cleaned and laundered weekly and are not shared between children.  
For sleeping items:
  • Clean and disinfect cots, sleeping mats and cribs weekly if dedicated to a single child or between use if shared between multiple children. Clean and disinfect when visibly soiled. Clean and disinfect changing stations after each use. 
  • Bedding that touches a child’s skin should be cleaned weekly if dedicated to a single child or between use if shared between multiple children.
  • Keep each child’s bedding separate, and consider storing in individually labeled bins, cubbies, or bags. Cots and mats should be labeled for each child. 
Find more information about cleaning and disinfecting in the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings.

Ventilation and Air Exchange

In settings with mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, ensure they are working properly. 

In homes or settings without HVAC systems, try to increase air ventilation by opening windows when the weather allows. Even if a window is only open a crack, it helps. 

For more information, please see WorkSafe BC’s guidance on general ventilation and air circulation.

Masks

Non-medical masks and face coverings (masks) provide some protection to the wearer and to those around them. 

Children may wear a mask based on personal or family choice. Infants under two years of age should not wear masks as it may make it difficult for them to breathe. Child care staff should supervise and support children to ensure safe and proper use if masks are worn.

Staff and other adults should wear a mask when indoors and interacting with other adults except when:
  • They can consistently maintain physical distance, or
  • There is a barrier in place, or
  • Eating and drinking
Masks may only provide limited protective value for adult-child interactions in child care settings, as there are multiple effective health and safety measures in place and young children are less likely to be infected. Child care staff and other adults may choose to wear a mask indoors when engaging in prolonged, close interaction with children. Careful consideration should be given to the potential impact of mask wearing on visual cueing and non-verbal communication with children, as these interactions play an important role in learning and development.

Masks are not needed for interactions between household members. Masks are not needed when urgent actions are required to support child safety.

Masks should not be used in place of other health and safety measures in child care, like physical distancing.
Additional information on mask use is available from the BCCDC and WorkSafeBC

Meals and food

Child care settings should continue to implement existing food safety practices. FOODSAFE Level 1 covers important food safety and worker safety information. It is a helpful resource for those seeking education and training on food safety practices.
In addition to existing food safety practices:

  • Ensure food contact surfaces are sanitized or disinfected before and after use with cleaners approved for food service.
  • Ensure reusable utensils, dishware, and glasses are cleaned and sanitized after each use. 
    • Children and staff can bring and use their own reusable food and drink containers. 
  • Food and beverages should not be shared. 
Child care settings can continue to accept food donations and the delivery of meal programs, breakfast clubs, and other food access initiatives. 

Mental well-being

With so much happening and uncertainty in daily life, it’s normal for staff, children and parents to feel worried or overwhelmed. It’s important for everyone to look after their mental health and well-being during COVID-19. 
 
Child Health BC is a provincial organization supporting children’s health. Visit their website for a list of mental health resources for parents and caregivers, children and staff. There are also resources on the mental well-being page of the BCCDC website.


Frequently Asked Questions

Child care settings run by a school and/or school district may be required to follow their school's health and safety plans that meet the  requirements set by the Ministry of Education. Operators should work with the school administrator to determine what health and safety measures are best suited for their unique circumstance, based on the Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools and the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings. What health and safety measures are best suited may vary depending on the age of children in care and the types of activities that children typically do in that setting.  More information about the health and safety measures in place in K-12 schools is available here.


Child care settings that are not run by the school (independent operators) should follow the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings

Child care staff and other adults should wear masks when they are indoors and interacting with other adults, unless:

  • They can consistently maintain physical distance,
  • There is a barrier in place (like plexiglass or a desk divider), or
  • They are eating or drinking.

Child care staff and other adults can choose to wear a mask when they are closely interacting with children, but don't need to. More information is available in the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings

Staff and other adults, including practicum students, volunteers and parents, can work with different groups of children and/or at multiple sites; however, efforts should be made to limit the number of staff and other adults who interact with different people throughout the day, including multiple groups of children.


Staff, students and volunteers should always follow health and safety measures, like practicing physical distancing and frequent hand hygiene. 

Children can sing at child care without additional health and safety measures.


Adults can also sing, however they should ensure physical distancing is practiced and that masks are worn when singing. 

Child care supports the learning, health and development of children. The Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings was developed to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading, while making sure that the activities and interactions that support children's health and development that normally occur in child care settings could continue.


The impacts of COVID-19 on children's health and development, including the health and safety measures in child care, and the broader public health measures, are not yet fully understood.


We do know that many children and families are struggling with feeling worried or overwhelmed, with so much uncertainty in daily life. It's important for everyone to look after their mental health and well-being during COVID-19. Child Health BC is a provincial organization supporting children's health. Visit the Child Health BC website for a list of mental health resources for parents and caregivers, children, and staff. There are also resources on the mental well-being page of the BCCDC website.



When someone at childcare is sick

If a staff member, child, or other person gets sick at home:

They should stay home. Guidance on what to do next is available on the When to get tested for COVID-19 resource or the BC Self-Assessment Tool.

Anyone with health-related questions can call 8-1-1. 

If a staff member, child, or other person develops symptoms at child care:

  • Separate them from others. 
    • Ensure children are supervised. They do not need to be in a separate room, but should be at least 2 metres away from other children and staff. 
  • Contact the child’s parent/caregiver to pick them up as soon as possible. Staff members should go home right away.
  • Maintain a 2 metre distance from the person who is sick as much as possible. 
    • If not possible, the person who is sick should wear a mask or use a tissue to cover their nose and mouth. The staff caring for the child should also wear a mask.
  • Dispose of tissues used by the person who is sick as soon as possible and avoid coming in contact with any bodily fluids (e.g. mucous, saliva). 
  • Practice good hand hygiene. 
  • Clean and disinfect areas recently used by the person (e.g. specific areas of the centre, bathroom, common areas).  
More information is available in the Public Health Guidance for Child Care Settings

Returning after sickness

When a staff, child, or other person entering the setting can return to child care depends on the type of symptoms they experienced. 
  • If based on their symptoms a test was not recommended, the person can return when their symptoms improve and they feel well enough to participate in all activities. 
  • If based on their symptoms a test is recommended, the person must stay home until they receive their test result:
    • If the test is negative, they can return when symptoms improve and they feel well enough.
    • If the test is positive, they must follow direction from public health to self-isolate and on when they can return. 

If someone who attended child care tests positive for COVID-19

While COVID-19 is present in our communities, it will exist in some child care settings. Nobody means to bring COVID-19 into a child care setting. 

If someone who attended child care tests positive for COVID-19:
  • Public health will  respond and assess the situation. This includes determining if the person who tested positive may have been infectious (contagious) with COVID-19 while they attended child care.
    • If they were infectious while they attended child care, public health will notify everyone directly who may need to self-isolate. 
      • Child care operators and staff should not provide notifications about a person testing positive for COVID-19 unless asked by public health. 
    • If they were not infectious while they attended child care, there is no increased likelihood of catching COVID-19 to anyone else who attended while they were there. Public health will not contact the child care setting.
  • For more information see the close contacts page of the BCCDC website.

If someone who attends child care lives with someone who is sick

Staff and children can attend child care if someone in their household is sick, as long as they don’t have any symptoms of illness themselves, and the person who is sick is following the guidance available on the When to get tested for COVID-19 resource or the BC Self-Assessment Tool

Children and staff who live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be told by public health to self-isolate (even if they don’t have symptoms), and when they may return to the child care setting. 

For more information on living with someone with COVID-19, visit the BCCDC Self-Isolation page.

Frequently Asked Questions


Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19 as part of contact tracing. If the person who tested positive for COVID-19 attended child care, public health will find out if they were able to spread COVID-19 while at child care.


If they were able to spread COVID-19 when they attended child care, public health will determine if there are any close contacts who also attended at the same time. Close contacts are usually staff or other children who spent a lot of time around the person who tested positive.


Public health will tell staff and families if they or their child is a close contact through a phone call or letter. The name of the person who tested positive is not shared to protect their privacy.

If there are multiple people who test positive for COVID-19 who attended child care, public health will investigate to determine the likelihood that COVID-19 spread at the facility. Because COVID-19 is present in our communities, sometimes there are multiple cases in a child care facility, even though it did not spread there.


If it is determined that COVID-19 likely did spread at the facility, public health will work with the child care operator to determine next steps.


Operators do not need to notify staff or families if a person who attended child care tests positive for COVID-19, unless requested to do so by public health. Operators do not need to close their facility unless instructed to so by a Medical Health Officer or licensing officer from the regional health authority

Public health will directly contact anyone who is a confirmed close contact within child care facilities or other community settings. Additional notifications (including public notifications) are not part of routine practice to make sure that personal privacy is protected.


Additional notifications may be issued on a case by case basis, when seen as necessary by public health. This would include if public health was not able to reach all close contacts to tell them they need to take preventive actions (e.g., self-isolation, COVID-19 testing). 



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