What To Do If Someone Tests Positive for COVID-19 at a Child Care Center

Opening your childcare center back up in the middle of a pandemic is not easy. There are so many fears that come into play especially because there are so many unknowns. It seems like every other day there is a new updated protocol for us to follow. Once we feel familiar with one way of doing things, we have to relearn a new way.

The most important thing you can plan for, though, is what to do if someone in your center is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive. This is something that you will need to have memorized and not have to take too much time pondering if it were to happen. As long as you act swiftly and remain transparent, your center will be safe.

Here are some things to do if anyone becomes exposed or tests positive for COVID-19.

NOTE: different states and provinces have different protocols, so become familiar with what your local health department requires.

If Someone is Exposed to COVID-19

Firstly, let’s talk about what to do if someone at your center, whether staff or student, is exposed to someone who has tested positive. 

  • Find out the timeline if exposure actually happened. Sometimes people panic because they were in the same room as the person, but there is more criteria to it than that.  Exposure means that within 48 hours of onset of symptoms, you had at least 15 minutes of contact within 6 feet of distance of the person who tested positive. 
  • If definite exposure has taken place, that person should quarantine for at least 14 days from the time of exposure. 
  • As soon as this information is known, alert your local licensing organization and your local department of health. 
  • As soon as this information is known, the room should be completely vacated. Keep the room off limits for 24 hours or as long as feasible before disinfecting and sanitizing. It is important that you have another classroom that the children can go to while the current classroom is being cleaned.
  • Families of those who have been in direct contact to this person who has been exposed should be communicated to.
  • If someone has been exposed to someone who has been exposed (3rd party), there is no need to quarantine.  Quarantine only is necessary if someone is directly exposed to the person who is positive. 
  • If any of the exposed people from your center start to have symptoms and/or test positive for COVID-19, you must close your center for at least 48 hours to do a deep clean of your center. 
  • It is important to have a good list of substitute teachers on call just in case staff have to be absent without notice. 

If Someone Tests Positive for COVID-19

When someone at your center shows symptoms and/or tests positive for COVID-19:

  • If the person is a student and begins to show symptoms at school, remove the child immediately and place them in a room with minimal toys/furniture. Make sure the staff member accompanying the child is wearing proper PPE. 
  • If the person is a staff member, send them home immediately if symptoms begin at work. If symptoms start at home, have the staff member get (rapid) tested and remain home until results are given. If positive, he/she must remain home and quarantined for 14 days since onset of symptoms. If negative, wait at least 24 hours and have the staff member tested again. If negative, the staff member may return to work.
  • Parents and guardians of children who have been exposed to the confirmed positive child or staff must be notified of an outbreak. An outbreak is considered one case of confirmed positive. 
  • The facility should close for 48 hours to properly disinfect and clean all areas. 
  • Anyone exposed to the confirmed positive person should self-quarantine for 14 days from time of exposure. 
  • Report all confirmed positive cases to licensing authorities and the local health department. 
  • Be aware that failure to report can result in penalties like removal of operating license.

If you are following all the guidelines put forth to avoid contracting COVID-19, and if you are seeking guidance from authorities and other directors, you are doing all that you possibly can. Remember that you are not alone in this endeavor and that there are many people who are there for you to help answer questions and guide you through this process. None of us are experts in this, and we are all becoming experts together. The best you can do is read up on all the latest protocols, ask for help when needed, and be open and honest if and when exposure occurs.

Missy Knechel

Missy is a professor in the early childhood department at Eastern University and director of Victory Early Learning Academy, a childcare center that she started ten years ago. Prior to that, she taught Kindergarten and second grade for a total of 10 years. She has been married to her best friend, Jason, for 15 years, and together they have four beautiful children ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In her spare time, Missy loves to bake, read historical fiction, sing karaoke and travel to Central America on short term missions.

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