With the number of coronavirus cases increasing globally by the day, child care owners need to have policies in place to protect children and staff while minimizing the impact on their business.
Be Prepared for Coronavirus with Reliable Information
It’s important to rely on reliable sources for up-to-date information on the coronavirus such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, there’s no evidence that children are more susceptible to the coronavirus than the general population; however, day care owners should still take special steps, such as having illness prevention and mitigation policies in place.
Children with the coronavirus normally develop mild, common cold symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and cough and, less commonly, gastrointestinal symptoms. However, the CDC cautions that children with underlying health issues, such as respiratory illnesses, may be at increased risk of severe infection.
The situation is constantly changing, though, so it’s a good idea to read the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions for additional information, and regularly check the current risk assessment for updates.
Create Policies to Mitigate and Prevent Illness
Worried parents may be asking how you plan to protect their children. The best way to prevent illness is to minimize exposure to the virus. Therefore, it’s important to create comprehensive infection control policies that help keep children healthy while giving parents peace of mind.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the CDC recommend daycare centers take these steps:
- Remind parents of your program’s exclusion policy when children are sick and why it’s important to keep them home when ill. Emphasize to staff that they should not report to work if they’re sick.
- If a child becomes ill while at your program, contact parents and keep the child comfortable while separating them from other children if possible.
- Verify you have up-to-date contact information for all parents and guardians.
- Double-check children’s medical records to ensure they have all necessary vaccinations including influenza.
- Review signs of the coronavirus and other communicable diseases with your staff. Reinforce the importance of performing daily health checks for each child and documenting results.
- Ensure staff are reinforcing the usual preventive measures to prevent the spread of illness including educating children on how to cover coughs and clean their hands properly.
- Be sure children are following correct handwashing procedures including washing with soap and water for at least 30 seconds (staff should also follow these guidelines). Individual wipes and hand sanitizer can be used if necessary. However, hand sanitizer shouldn’t be used on children under the age of two.
- Frequently clean, sanitize and disinfect all areas in your child care center including toys.
- Plan for staff absenteeism, including assessing the potential impact on mandated staff/child ratios. Determine how you will bring in additional staff, if needed.
- If a child or staff member is diagnosed with the coronavirus, seek guidance from your local health officials on when they can return to your program including next steps to take.
Address Children’s Fears about the Coronavirus
It’s also important to realize that the children at your daycare center have likely heard about the virus and may have fears about getting sick. The National Association of School Psychologists and National Association of School Nurses created a helpful article on sharing honest and accurate information with children including:
- Keep explanations simple and remind them that everyone is working hard to keep them safe and healthy
- Avoid language that blames others. Explain that the virus can infect anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.
- For older children, it can be helpful to discuss that some stories in the news or on the Internet may be based on inaccurate information.
- Help them understand how their actions, such as properly washing hands and covering coughs, can reduce the spread of germs and help prevent others from getting sick.
Prepare Your Balance Sheet
There’s no question your daycare center will be operationally and financially impacted to some degree by this challenging time. Your enrollment and tuition payments may decline for a time as parents choose to keep children home. Take this opportunity to review your daycare center’s expenses and adjust spending as needed.
Revisit your budget and begin forecasting your revenue and costs for the coming months. This will give you insight to your financial position so you can proactively explore other actions or pursue sources of credit to maintain and recover a healthy balance sheet. Keep in mind the situation is very fluid and today’s assumptions will change as the country migrates through the coronavirus outbreak.
Stemming the Spread of Coronavirus
By implementing illness prevention and mitigation policies, you play an important role in helping stem the spread of coronavirus among the children and staff at your daycare center. Worried parents will also be reassured when they understand the steps you’re taking to protect their children from the virus.