You are no doubt aware of reports concerning a new respiratory virus that health officials have termed novel coronavirus (COVID-19). You can find the most up-to-date information about what is going on with the virus on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. You can also find local information on the Minnesota Department of Health website (MDH).
While a new type of illness can be unsettling, you can protect yourself, your family, and the children in your care by taking some simple everyday precautions that protect people from other types of respiratory or flu-like illnesses.
For child care providers, this means staying vigilant about hygiene and keeping a close eye on children and staff who are showing signs of illness. Providers should take a few minutes each morning to do daily health checks and see how each child is looking, feeling and acting. Providers should also emphasize to parents that children need to stay home when they are sick.
Finally, make sure children in the program and any adults who are present know to:
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water are best, but alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also be used.
- Cover every cough or sneeze and throw dirty tissues in the trash.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Child care providers must make sure frequently touched objects and surfaces are cleaned regularly. Since this should already be part of a child care programs daily routine, extra disinfection is not required at this time.
Regardless of whether there is a Corona virus outbreak in Minnesota, child care programs should have a plan in place for dealing with disease outbreaks.
According to MN law, child care providers are required to report diseases to the health department. COVID-19 is covered under this rule as a “SARS” disease and as an “unusual or increased case incidence of any suspect infectious illness.” You do not need to worry about privacy issues or confidentiality when you make a report. Health care providers, laboratories, and others are also required to report. It is important that you call right away, even if you think that someone else may have already made a report. Contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 1- (877) 676-5414 or (651) 201-5414.
Information from MDH specifically for schools and child care programs on Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found HERE.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has a series of resources that can help protect a provider’s health and business in situations where a lot of children or adults are getting sick. The CDC also has this advice for businesses and employers.
The Hennepin County Community Health Department, with the support of local and state disease prevention and control staff and child care consultants, created a infectious diseases manual for childcare and schools.
MDH also provides hand hygiene information, research, and guidelines for schools and child care HERE.