State officials will start publicly identifying child care centers where there are outbreaks of COVID-19.
Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia says new guidelines require child care providers to report positive cases of the virus among children and staff.
“We’re balancing both the public health aspects and the overall well-being of children,” Garcia says. ” We also know how important is acceptable child care is to help parents return to work or continue to work.”
On May 15, the state’s criteria for qualifying for a COVID-19 test was changed, so children who go to child care and child care center employees may get tested if they had coronavirus symptoms that were not diagnosed as something else. Garcia says once an outbreak is identified, a child care provider will be asked to close anywhere from two days to up to two weeks, depending on the number of children who are enrolled.
“We will work closely with (the Iowa Department of Public Health) to determine the appropriate time frame and to ensure robust hygiene and cleaning before any reopening occurs,” Garcia says. “We will ensure all staff and children have access to testing.”
Eight weeks ago, state officials required parents to drop their children off without entering facilities and all kids in child care must have their temperatures taken every morning to ensure those with a fever go home.
“Over the past few months, we’ve worked to equip our child care providers with disinfectant and thermometers. This isn’t a role we typically fulfill, but it was absolutely the right thing to do,” Garcia says. “We’re providing financial support to ensure child care providers are able to close and deep clean, should they need to, and we’re providing them additional financial support because we know that there was a child care shortage in Iowa before the pandemic and we need to ensure access to child care long after the pandemic is over.”
Child care centers were not among the businesses Governor Kim Reynolds ordered to close in March. The governor said essential workers need child care services to continue operating, so they could continue to work.
Garcia says later this week her agency will issue new guidance for how summer camps should operate during the pandemic.