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What COVID-19 safety guidelines should my child care provider be following upon reopening?

As child care providers reopen across South Carolina, parents and caregivers have many questions when it comes to COVID safety precautions for their children. When making recommendations to the public, to parents and providers, the S.C. Department of Social Services (DSS) and the ABC Quality child care staff follow the health and safety guidelines set forth by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). As the state’s official public health authority, DHEC has recommended practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and a quality child care provider should follow these guidelines to help ensure the health and safety of children, providers, and their staff.

What to Ask

For parents bringing their children back to a child care, here’s a list of questions and answers to help measure the COVID safety protocol at their given provider.

1. What daily safety protocols should I be looking for at my child care provider?

  • Make sure children, staff, and visitors are washing hands as directed by SC DHEC.
  • Providers should clean and disinfect all surfaces within the facility on regular basis.
  • Providers should practice social distancing when possible.
  • Providers should use sign-in procedures for parents and other visitors (ex., move child handoffs closer to the front door to minimize parents coming into the classroom space and avoid possible exposure to children and caregivers).
  • Providers should limit visitors to the facility.
  • Staff should wear masks and/or gloves, especially when diapering.
  • Providers should have health entrance checks for staff and children (taking temperatures).

2. What will the child/teacher ratio be with new COVID guidelines? 
The ratios have not changed.

3. How will providers ensure social distancing? 
According to the guidance from SC DHEC, staff should avoid congregating together and should stay at least 6 ft apart from other staff who do not work in the same classroom. Social distancing may not be feasible, though for young children. If possible, the recommendations from DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) include “cohorting.” Cohorting refers to the limited number of children and staff that will be required to quarantine together in a given class. This means keeping the same children and staff together and limiting any interaction outside of that group. Children cohorted in a class together should be kept away from children in other classes, and staff should practice social distancing when around other staff members. If possible, DHEC and CDC guidelines and recommendations state that a group size should not exceed 10 students.

4. Should all staff wear masks? 
According to SC DHEC, staff wearing masks will help limit the risk of transmission to others. There are no requirements, but the guidelines suggest masks help limit the spread of COVID and there are health and safety grants available to assist providers in gathering these protective items needed to maintain safety. 

5. What about snack time and food safety? 
The careful handling of food service to children is important.  Providers should limit communal sharing of food, and donations where possible.Providers should also follow regular safety guidelines and always wash hands prior to handling food.

6. What about toys?
In regards to sanitary measures for items such as toys, supplies, etc., providers should be sanitizing these items on a daily basis in the course of normal (pre-COVID)guidelines they already adhere to. The CDC is also recommending that providers limit the amount of toys that are put out for use.

7. What happens if a child or teacher gets sick? 
A provider’s director should call the SC DHEC Care Line for instructions on how to handle this within the classroom or child care facility. According to SC DHEC, children should be excluded from child care if they have any one of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or
  • Loss of taste or smell or
  • New or worsening cough

Children should also be excluded from child care if they have any two of the following symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting or nausea

What to do

SC DHEC indicates that parents of a child with any of these symptoms should strongly consider not allowing their child to attend a child care facility regardless of meeting exclusions criteria.

Also, if a child or teacher becomes ill, the decision to close a classroom or an entire provider’s facility depends on the size of the classroom, the size of the facility and the number of potential exposures. DHEC also reminds everyone that it is up to the parent or caregiver to recognize any of the COVID symptoms and if a child exhibits them, that child should be excluded from child care. And if a provider sees a child develop those systems while in care, they should take steps to remove the child.

Remember, if a child or provider tests positive, it should be reported to the SCDHEC Care Line at  1-855-472-3432 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.


SC Child Care COVID-19 News & Announcements

CDC Child Care Provider Guidelines

SC DHEC Child Care Provider Guidelines 

By ABC Quality Team on September 4, 2020