March 20, 2020

Warner & Kaine Urge Trump Administration to Issue Clear Guidance for Child Care Providers Keeping Doors Open Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

~ School closures have increased demand for child care services ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, urging the agency to issue clear guidance for child care providers to determine whether these centers should remain open amid the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak. School closures across the country have increased demand for child care services, yet these providers are left to make their own decisions about whether and how to stay open due to the federal government’s lack of clear guidance.

“As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, we write on the topic of K-12 school closures and the lack of sufficient guidance for child care operations. We are concerned that there has not been an official guidance for child care operators to determine whether these centers should remain open, leaving administrators and parents without direction for how to best protect the safety of children and limit the spread of the virus,” wrote the Senators in their letter to Secretary Azar.

In Virginia, the Governor has ordered K-12 schools to close for a minimum of two weeks in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Similarly, states across the country have also ordered the closure of their schools to curb the spread of the virus. With millions of children out of school, child care providers are implementing policies in disparate ways and, in many cases, struggling to heed the social distancing guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Earlier this week, Virginia ordered child care facilities to follow federal guidelines, which includes limiting total classroom size to ten individuals.

“This increased demand on child care centers contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which announced a federal guidance limiting gatherings of ten people or more. As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing on Monday afternoon, ‘There is no social distancing in child care. It’s impossible.’ As you well know, guidelines on social-distancing that may be feasible in schools, work places, and public areas may not be feasible in child care centers,” continued the Senators.  

In their letter, the Senators commended Virginia for providing clear guidance for child care centers and urged that the federal government follow that lead and provide guidance for child care centers nationwide in an effort to protect the health and safety of the children they serve and the staff who care for them.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Azar:

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, we write on the topic of K-12 school closures and the lack of sufficient guidance for child care operations. We are concerned that there has not been an official guidance for child care operators to determine whether these centers should remain open, leaving administrators and parents without direction for how to best protect the safety of children and limit the spread of the virus.

As you well know, several states have ordered K-12 schools to close in recent days. On March 13, 2020, all K-12 schools in Virginia closed for a minimum of two weeks in response to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus. School closures in Virginia and across the country mean that millions of children are no longer under the supervision of teachers and school administrators each day. We have heard widespread confusion from child care operators about whether they should remain open to care for this population, with no guidance from the federal government.  

Despite a lack of guidance, many day care centers have opted to remain open because of increased need for child care services during the coronavirus outbreak, since many parents are unable to stay at home with their children who are no longer at school.

This increased demand on child care centers contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which announced a federal guidance limiting gatherings of ten people or more. As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing on Monday afternoon, “There is no social distancing in child care. It’s impossible.” As you well know, guidelines on social-distancing that may be feasible in schools, work places, and public areas may not be feasible in child care centers.

On March 18, 2020, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that it would issue guidance for child care services in Virginia. This guidance informs child care centers on how to best protect the health and safety of the children they serve. We encourage the Administration to follow Virginia’s example and issue guidance for child care countries across the nation to follow.

We recognize that the CDC has posted resources and minimal guidance on its website. While these guidelines mention child care centers periodically, they do not specifically mention guidelines child care centers should take. This non-comprehensive and contradictory guidance from the Administration are not only causing frustration, but may cause an unintentional spread of the virus. Therefore, we request that your Department issue guidance clarifying the following questions:

  • What guidelines should child care centers follow in determining the need for closures?
  • Are there particular variables that child care centers serving families of health care providers and first responders should take into account as they weigh the decision of whether or not to close?
  • What mitigation measures must child care centers implement in order to limit the spread of the virus among the children they serve and the staff who care for them?
  • What information can you provide regarding the safety of child care centers during this outbreak?

It is our hope that you continue to issue additional guidance to diminish confusion surrounding this issue. Furthermore, we encourage you to consider the broader implications of such confusion on Americans’ health and safety. We urge you to proactively issue guidance in this already unsettling time.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your response on the issue.

 

Sincerely,