The CDC outlined measures for daycare centers to safely reopen, specifying that sick children should stay home and urging providers to have plans in place for how to respond to outbreaks.

By Benjamin VanHoose
Updated June 26, 2020
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North Carolina has identified several clusters of cases at daycare centers as parents weigh childcare options during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

On Tuesday, the state's Department of Health and Human Services reported four separate clusters of confirmed coronavirus cases at daycare or school settings that service 10 or more children. Each establishment had a total of six staffers or kids test positive for COVID-19, with zero deaths.

The state health officials define a cluster as "a minimum of five laboratory confirmed cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiological linkage between cases."

A cluster is "considered over" when there is no longer "evidence of continued transmission within the setting," according to the report, which is updated twice weekly.

Millions of American children under the age of 5 were enrolled in some form of consistent childcare arrangement prior to the pandemic, meaning many working parents are in need of the service if they plan to return to work.

One Chicago mom, Mandy Zaransky-Hurst told The New York Times that caring for her 4-month-old and her 6-year-old while also working from home is "not sustainable." She admitted, however, that the risk of infection at a daycare is concerning for her.

"How can companies really expect their employees to return to work in a normal fashion?" she said. "What true flexibility and understanding will companies give to employees who can’t send their kids back to daycare?"

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines to daycare centers and pre-K schools looking to remain open during the pandemic. The measures are in addition to normal COVID-19 prevention practices, like hand-washing.

Among the recommendations are to stress to parents to keep sick children home, stagger drop-off times, limit group activities to reduce spread, and set up an "isolation room or area" to place a child who becomes sick.

The experts clarified that masks should be worn by adult caregivers, but face coverings should never be placed on babies or children under 2 "because of the danger of suffocation."

Tara Sell of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told Today that parents should look for red flags at daycare centers, including making sure the center follows proper prevention protocols.

"I think parents should just use their best judgment ... we're all sort of thinking through the risks we're taking as we decide to move forward," said Sell, who co-authored a study last month that found more research is needed to safely reopen schools amid the outbreak.

"We don't need to panic about small risks, but we also need to be thoughtful about the risks that we do take," Sell added. "Be aware of what those risks mean to you and your household."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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