The COVID-19 pandemic is, for the most part, winding down and life for many Americans has started to return to something like normal. This is great news! But it also creates a quandary for child care providers: how do you make changes to the rules about mask-wearing in your center and communicate them to families?
You’re bound to have parents with different opinions. Some of them will be dead-set on masking for the foreseeable future. Others have been ready to ditch their masks for months.
In this article, we’ll give you some information so you can make an educated decision about how and when to adjust mask rules. And we’ll share five tips you can use to effectively share rule changes with your customers.
Masks have been proven to help stop the spread of COVID-19 because they prevent respiratory droplets that spread the virus from reaching others. Many states and local governments have abolished their mask mandates as numbers of cases have dropped. Check with local regulations to learn if you’re still required to wear a face covering in public spaces.
Who Should Wear a Mask?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the following people still wear masks:
- People age 2 and older should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household.
- Those traveling on a plane, bus, train or other form of public transportation, and in airports and stations
- People who haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine
The CDC does not recommend masks for everybody. Consider forgoing your mask if the following applies to you or your dependents:
- Children under 2 years old
- You have a disability that prevents you from safely wearing a mask
- You have a job that would put you in danger were you to wear your mask
How Should You Wear Your Mask?
If you are required to wear a mask or feel more comfortable wearing one in public spaces, you should do your best to wear it correctly. Here are a few tips:
- Choose a mask made of tightly-woven, breathable fabrics
- Choose a mask that has multiple layers and/or inner filter pockets
- Choose a mask that fits snugly around your face, minimizing gaps
- Wash your hands before putting on or otherwise handling your mask
According to the CDC, face shields and goggles are not suitable replacements for masks because they don’t adequately keep respiratory droplets from spreading.
When Should You Wear Your Mask?
If you haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends wearing a face covering whenever you’re in public. This includes in grocery stores, government buildings, while on planes and buses, and while at work.
However, the CDC acknowledges that masks are probably not necessary in outdoor spaces such as parks and city sidewalks, as long as you’re able to socially distance from strangers.
How to Communicate Mask Rule Changes to Families
After analyzing both the scientific research and the government regulations in your area, you may decide to update your daycare center’s mask ordinance. If so, keep these tips in mind when communicating changes to the families you serve:
1. Give Plenty of Lead-Up Time
You don’t want to spring changes on your customers.
Instead, tell families that you plan to change mask requirements at your child care center on a specific date. This will give parents time to grow accustomed to the changes and prepare for them.
Just make sure that the date you choose is far enough in the future. We suggest a week or two advanced notice. This is a long enough period of time for parents to prepare, but not so long that they forget or grow restless, waiting for the change to finally take effect.
2. Communicate in Multiple Ways
When you make your announcement regarding mask rule changes, do it through a variety of channels. For example, you and your staff can tell parents in-person when they pick up their kids and can also post signs around your facility or send an email blast.
You want to make sure that parents know exactly what the changes entail and when you plan to implement them. So plan to make multiple announcements during your lead-up time.
Additionally, don’t just communicate that your mask ordinance is changing, tell parents why. Has the CDC released new information? Has your local government relaxed its regulations? Have a large portion of your families started to complain about face mask requirements?
Giving parents a reason for the face-covering change will help them get on board.
3. Be Flexible With Your Families
Just because you’re ready to throw away your mask doesn’t mean the families you serve are too. That’s why you need to be flexible when it comes to your mask rules.
If parents feel more comfortable wearing their mask while inside your facility, let them. If they ask you to watch their children extra closely to make sure their masks stay on throughout the day, do your best to oblige them in this request. Don’t force anything on them.
You’ll develop a better relationship with your customers if you’re flexible and do your best to accommodate their needs as much as you can.
4. Stay Consistent in Your Approach
It’s really important that you stay consistent in whatever mask ordinance changes you make.
If you decide to eliminate mask requirements altogether for your daycare center, you probably shouldn’t wear a mask yourself while working with kids (unless you fall into a category where the CDC recommends you continue to wear a mask, as listed above). This sends a mixed message and could cause parents to lose faith in you and your staff.
Consistency builds trust. And if there’s one thing you need to convey to parents, it’s that they can trust you to keep their kids happy and safe while they’re away.
5. Reassess Rule Changes if Necessary
Keep an eye on your business after mask ordinance changes are made. Have parents accepted your new policies? While you never want to make company-wide decisions based on a handful of customers, you don’t want to lose a significant number of clients either.
If, for instance, a majority of the families you serve express concern over your handling of face coverings — or worse, threaten to pull their kids — you should reassess your changes.
Having a strong focus on parent engagement helps build meaningful connections with the families you serve.
How is your child care center doing when it comes to keeping parents informed, connected and engaged?
Follow Regulations in Your Area
It’s important to realize that different areas have different COVID-19 regulations.
Many states such as Idaho, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee and Florida may only require masks in specific scenarios, such as on public transportation.
Keep an eye on specific governmental regulations related to schools. California, for instance, said in early July that it will continue to require masks in schools, even though federal health authorities have said vaccinated students and teachers don’t need to wear masks inside campus buildings.
Follow local regulations and executive orders when developing your child care center’s mask mandate. That way your business is protected from legal issues.
Analyze the scientific research to stay informed and comply with local regulations to make your decision about mask rules inside your child care center.
You can communicate with parents about your mask rules, and other happenings at your center, through Procare’s Parent Engagement app.
And Procare recently added a new feature to its Desktop program called Health Check Extra.
It takes the ability to log child health checks throughout the day, something offered by each of Procare’s child care software solutions, to a new level – it can track staff health checks as well.
It’s a way for health screening questions to be imported for child center employees, such as details including the staff member’s temperature or any symptoms they may be experiencing. Answers of a health questionnaire are imported directly into the software.
Request a free demonstration of Procare today to explore our software’s many business management, parent engagement and staff management tools.