AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday, May 18, that all child care centers are able to reopen immediately. Abbott also said that starting on May 31, youth sports camps, summer camps, daytime and overnight camps will be able to reopen.
Several child care service providers in Austin, like Stepping Stone School and Children's Courtyard, have stayed open during the pandemic, only allowing the children of essential workers. Now, the classrooms that were once left empty can welcome some kids back in.
"Now the only difference will be – we will still not allow parents in the building because we want to keep those buildings as sanitary as we possibly can," said Clarissa Johnston, a district manager for Children's Courtyard locations in Cedar Park, Austin and Round Rock. "It’s good news for everybody. Parents are excited. We let them know as soon as we got word from the governor’s office."
The company said they already had a long list of safety guidelines.
At Poppy, a coworking space in North Austin that also allows parents to have their kids supervised, they plan on reopening soon but implementing strong social distancing practices for both children and parents.
"In here, we would usually seat up to 50 people – 50 adults – and now we are dropping it down to 15, including the couches and chairs," Poppy founder and CEO Mandy Klenk said. "We are going to take away again the toys that are hard to clean, any fabrics, stuffed animals, stuff like that.”
In addition, they will block off their ball pit, have employees wear masks and make sure their clients sign a document making sure they understand what the rules are inside.
The governor's new guidelines for child care programs and youth sports camps are as follows:
CHILD CARE PROGRAMS
Federal and state health protocols for serving children in child care:
- Operate the child care in accordance with the Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open released by the Centers of Disease Control, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-childcare.html.
- Based on above CDC guidance, create plans for each child care facility around the following prevention measures:
- Implement social distancing strategies
- Intensify cleaning and disinfection efforts
- Modify drop-off and pick-up procedures
- Implement screening procedures upon arrival
- Operate the child care in accordance with applicable state rules, including Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) emergency rules applicable to the type of license the child care center holds.
- Temporarily licensed child care centers can find their rules here.
- Regulated child care centers can find their rules here.
- Ensure that all child care providers have taken required health and safety training related to COVID-19 through the Texas A&M AgrilLife extension. The following training is required:
- Providing High Quality Experiences during COVID-19 for Emergency Child Care Settings
- Special Considerations for Infection Control during COVID-19
Preventative health measures for child care centers:
Child care providers must follow all applicable state statutes and HHSC Child Care Licensing rules. The following checklist is intended to provide a selection of important health and safety items. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Providers who need help understanding applicable rules and procedures should reach out to their contact at Child Care Licensing for further assistance.
Plan ahead to ensure adequate supplies to support hand hygiene behaviors and routine cleaning of objects and surfaces. If you have difficulty in obtaining these supplies, please contact your Child Care Licensing representative.
- Consistent with the actions taken by many businesses across the state, consider having all employees wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth). If available, employees should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
- Require sick children and staff to stay home.
- Communicate to parents the importance of keeping children home when they are sick.
- Communicate to staff the importance of being vigilant for symptoms and staying in touch with center management if or when they start to feel sick.
- Establish procedures to ensure children and staff who come to the child care center sick or become sick while at your facility are sent home as soon as possible.
- Keep sick children and staff separate from well children and staff until they can be sent home.
- Sick staff members should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation.
- Consider ways to provide this guidance to your child care center families.
- Have a plan if someone is or becomes sick.
- Plan to have an isolation room that can be used to isolate a sick child.
- Be ready to follow CDC guidance on how to disinfect your building or center if someone is sick.
- If a sick child has been isolated in your facility, clean and disinfect surfaces in your isolation room or area after the sick child has gone home.
If COVID-19 is confirmed in a child or staff member:
- Contact your local health authority to report the presence of COVID-19 in your facility. Your local health authority will advise you on re-opening procedures.
- Contact Child Care Licensing to report the presence of COVID-19 in your facility.
- Close off areas used by the person who is sick.
- Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the areas.
- Wait up to 24 hours or as long as possible before you clean or disinfect to allow respiratory droplets to settle before cleaning and disinfecting.
- Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, and common areas.
- If more than 7 days have passed since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
- Continue routine cleaning and disinfection.
Monitor and plan for absenteeism among your staff.
- Develop plans to cover classes in the event of increased staff absences. Coordinate with other local child care programs and reach out to substitutes to determine their anticipated availability if regular staff members need to stay home if they or their family members are sick.
- Recommend that individuals at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 consult with their medical provider to assess their risk and to determine if they should stay home if there is an outbreak in their community.
Review plans for implementing social distancing strategies.
- Social distancing focuses on remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance from others when possible. Detailed guidance for implementing social distancing strategies in child care centers and schools is found here.
Assess group gatherings and events.
- Events and group activities are strongly discouraged in child care centers. If for some reason an event must occur, child care centers should follow current CDC guidance about gatherings and events.
- Avoid scheduling events that require your children to bring items from home (e.g. show and tells).
Limit access to your center.
- Prohibit any but the following individuals from accessing your facility:
- Operation staff;
- Persons with legal authority to enter, including law enforcement officers, Texas Rising Star staff, Licensing staff, and Department of Family and Protective Services staff;
- Professionals providing services to children;
- Children enrolled at the operation; and
- Parents who have children enrolled and present at the operation. Parents should only enter the child care center when necessary.
- Limit the use of parent or other volunteers in your facilities to an absolute minimum.
Parent drop-off and pick-up:
- The pick-up and drop-off of children should be completed outside of the operation, unless the operation determines that there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter. Should the parent have a legitimate need to enter the operation, the parent must be screened by the operation as outlined in this document.
- NOTE: For families participating in the subsidized child care program, efforts should be made to allow them to check in via the state’s card swipe system. Consider moving the card swipe station outdoors in the morning or swiping the parent’s card for them. Sanitize card swipe stations after use.
- Consider staggering arrival and drop off times and have child care providers go outside the facility to pick up the children as caretakers arrive. A plan for curbside drop-off and pick-up should limit direct contact between parents and staff members and adhere to social distancing recommendations.
- Hand hygiene stations should be set up at the entrance of the facility, so that children can clean their hands before they enter. If a sink with soap and water is not available, provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol next to parent sign-in sheets. Keep hand sanitizer out of children’s reach and supervise use. If possible, place sign-in stations outside, and provide sanitary wipes for cleaning pens between each use.
- Designate a parent to be the drop-off/pick-up volunteer to walk all children to their classroom, and at the end of the day, walk all children back to their cars. These volunteers should wear a mask. To the extent possible, they should also keep 6 feet of distance between themselves and the caregiver, and other volunteers.
- Infants can be transported in their car seats. Store car seats out of children’s reach.
- If possible, older people such as grandparents should not pick up children, because they are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
YOUTH SPORTS CAMPS
Health protocols for employees, contractors, and volunteers (“staff”):
- Provide notice to all parents and guardians of the enhanced risks of participants being in direct contact with anyone age 65 or older for 14 days after participating in a sport event or practice.
- Train all staff on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
- Screen all staff each day for any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Feeling feverish or a measured temperature greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
- Known close contact with a person who is lab confirmed to have COVID-19
- Limit staff with underlying conditions from attending or staffing the youth sporting event.
- Consistent with the actions taken by many employers across the state, consider having all staff wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth). If available, staff should consider wearing nonmedical grade face masks.
- Staff should mitigate environmental exposures by additional cleaning and disinfecting of symptomatic staff’s work area, common areas, and bathrooms. Staff should follow and supervise the Program Activity Plan and, if applicable, the Transportation Plan
Health protocols regarding sick participants and staff members:
- Isolate staff and participants exhibiting new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19 and contact the local health department.
- Do not allow staff with the new or worsening signs or symptoms of COVID-19 to return to work until:
- In the case of a staffer who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to work when all three of the following criteria are met: at least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications); and the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; or
- In the case of a staffer who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and does not get evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, the individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to work until the individual has completed the same three-step criteria listed above; or
- If the staffer has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to work before completing the above self-isolation period, the individual must obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on a negative nucleic acid COVID19 test and an alternative diagnosis.
- Do not allow staff with the new or worsening signs or symptoms of COVID-19 to return to work until:
- Staff should help the operator in identifying exposure risks (a.k.a. contact tracing).
- Each sporting team is considered a cohort. Outside of the sporting event, discourage mixing between cohorts.
- Immediately isolate any participant or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19.
- If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the youth sports organizer should notify parents or guardians of possible exposure to a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19.
- If 3 or more cohorts in a sports league have individuals test positive for COVID-19, work with state and local public health authorities about continued operations of the youth sports league.
- Using the groups or cohort strategy, contact tracing can be initiated promptly, and isolation and surveillance can be implemented in short order.
Health protocols for spectators:
- Individuals should avoid being in a group larger than 10 individuals. Within these groups, individuals should, to the extent possible, minimize in-person contact with others not in the individual’s household. Minimizing in-person contact includes maintaining 6 feet of separation from individuals. When maintaining 6 feet of separation is not feasible, other methods should be utilized to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a face covering or mask, washing or sanitizing hand frequently, and avoiding sharing utensils or other common objects.
- Consistent with the actions taken by many individuals across the state, all spectators should consider wearing cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth). If available, spectators should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.
Health protocols for grounds and facilities:
- Develop, train, and implement increased daily sanitization protocols for common surfaces, restrooms, recreational equipment, and facilities.
- Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant readily available throughout the facility.
- Consider having an individual wholly or partially dedicated to ensuring the health protocols adopted by the youth sports league are being successfully implemented and followed.
- Health policies and protocols should include communicating and coordinating with the local health department, local emergency services, and local health care providers.
- Consistent with the actions taken by many employers across the state, consider having all staff and participants wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth). If available, staff and participants should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks
Health protocols for youth sports facilities:
- Develop and implement a Program Activity Hygiene Plan to include:
- Sanitization of all program areas
- Sanitization of equipment before and after use
- Hand washing or hand sanitizing before and after activities
- Group excursions related to youth sports are strongly discouraged, and should be limited or eliminated where feasible. To the extent those excursions continue, develop and implement Transportation Protocols to include:
- One individual per seat and every other row in a vehicle
- Staggered seating for maximum distancing
- Asking participants and staff to wear face coverings or masks while in vehicle
- All individuals should sanitize hands upon boarding the vehicle
- Remind participants, parents, and guardians of the enhanced risks of participants being in direct contact with anyone age 65 or older for 14 days after participating in the youth sporting event or practice.
A full list of these businesses that are able to open, and the guidelines for them, can be found on the governor's website.
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