Friday, March 13th, 2020
The Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (IDCFS) knows that many early childhood care and education (ECCE) programs are wondering what can or should be done to prepare for a possible increase in the number of cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Illinois.
The United States (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides up-to-date information about prevention, symptoms, testing, and the current situation. Follow CDC recommendations.
The health and well-being of children, families, and staff in Illinois is of utmost importance. The immediate health risk to the general public from the virus causing COVID-19 remains low both in the U.S. and in Illinois. However, there are steps individuals can take to help minimize the COVID-19 spread.
For Program Staff
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure. When talking with program staff, administrators are encouraged to emphasize the following to help keep your staff and program participants healthy; these strategies also can help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after staff have been in a public place, or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. All hand surfaces should be covered; hands should be rubbed together until they feel dry.
- Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or use the inside of the elbow.
- Stay home when sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
For more information, see Steps to Prevent Illness or Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives from the CDC.
Support families in planning and making decisions for how they can protect themselves and their family members and homes. See the CDC Get Your Home Ready: Checklist for Individuals and Families for information on how families can create a household plan of action and for Information on COVID-19 for Pregnant Women and Children. Encourage families to consider members of their household that may be of greater risk, particularly older people and people of all ages with severe underlying conditions.
Develop an Action Plan
Through collaboration and coordination with local health departments, child care facilities and ECCE programs can take steps to disseminate information about COVID-19 and its potential transmission within their community. Programs should create a COVID-19 Action Plan that outlines, but is not limited to, the following:
- Be Proactive
- Develop strategies to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Effective strategies build on already established infection control policies and practices.
- Determine the need to develop and implement policies and procedures for working with, and providing services to, vulnerable populations.
- Develop and identify how you will manage each staff member's responsibilities in the event of his or her illness or extended absence to ensure continuation of service.
- Avoid Exposure
- Create/review and approve appropriate screening protocols to ensure staff safety and the safety of those they come in contact with. Screening protocols should also be implemented for staff (See IDHS Guidance- Community Based visits and Visitor Screening)
- Staff should document specific reasons for missing home visits to avoid being out of compliance with model requirements or funder requirements.
- Staff can offer visits over the phone or FaceTime/Skype visit if the family has that capability. Details regarding these visits should be documented in a manner consistent with how in-person meetings are documented.
- Via routine communication, inform potential visitors of your agency that symptomatic persons will not be able to enter the program facility. Be sure to screen and exclude visitors upon arrival if they have had potential exposure to COVID-19, recently travelled from an affected geographic area, or who appear to be experiencing fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Post information about this on all agency/building entrances.
- Minimize the number of events, including parent groups, until further notice.
- Purchase infection control supplies such as hand sanitizer and soap for children, staff, and visitors to your facility per CDC recommendations
- Evaluate existing janitorial services and cleaning operations against the current CDC cleaning guidance.
- Monitor and Plan for Absenteeism
- Review the usual absentee patterns among staff. Alert local health officials about large increases in staff absenteeism, particularly if absences appear to be due to respiratory illnesses.
- Review current attendance and sick leave policies. Develop new policies outlining mandatory leave for staff with COVID-19 exposure, symptoms of illness, or confirmed infection. This should include quarantine for 14 days post-exposure or isolation, if symptomatic.
- Determine the need to anticipate and approve flexible work schedules for staff absences.
- Develop a tracking mechanism to monitor staff illness and determine your program's ability to meet required activities.
- Develop an employee awareness campaign that provides information on COVID-19 and protective measures. Create a communication strategy to describe actions being taken to keep staff informed.
- Develop a family awareness campaign that provides information on COVID-19 and protective measures. Create a communication strategy to describe actions being taken to keep families informed. Ensure Action Plans address the need for effective communication with individuals with limited English proficiency or for whom English is not their native language
- The CDC has numerous print resources available in several languages, as well as a series of videos (in English) that can be shared with staff and families.
- Reach out to your local public health officials (such as the county health department) for guidance if you are considering closing for a COVID-19 related reason. This is not a decision that you should be making on your own, but in partnership with local health officials.
See the CDC Get Your Community- and Faith-Based Organizations Ready for Coronavirus Disease for
For additional information and updates, visit the following:
IDPH COVID-19 Website
CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)