Daycares are reopening in states across the country and likely near you. But are they safe as COVID-19 cases still exist? Here’s what you need to know about the safety measures daycares are taking to protect your children.

By Melissa Mills
June 15, 2020
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Some daycares in the U.S. stayed open for the children of essential workers during the entire pandemic, others couldn't survive the financial burden of closing for so long, and now—months after the coronavirus crisis began—the remainder of child care centers are opening their doors to families again. But how safe are they, and should you send your kids?

There's no right or wrong answer, as every family is in a completely unique situation. But if you're on the fence and able to keep your kids at home a little longer, it might not hurt to do so.

"For the otherwise healthy child in a family who can 'afford' to keep the child home, staying home for the first month or two while the country is starting to open back up can lessen the child's exposure to the regular daycare germs that circulate, in addition to the potential uptick in COVID-19 infections," says Jill Garripoli Pedalino, D.O., pediatrician and owner of Healthy Kids Pediatrics in Nutley, New Jersey.

"Parents should especially consider holding off on sending their kids back to daycare if logistically possible if the child has an underlying medical condition or a previously diagnosed weakened immune system," recommends Dr. Jill, as her patients lovingly refer to her.

Not every family has the option to stay home, though. Some parents will soon have to return to work in person, some need support after weeks of trying to make ends meet, and for others, the workload is just too much to have a child at home. Other parents are simply ready for their kids to get back into their normal routines and socialize again, and that's OK too. At the end of the day, every parent needs to decide what's best for their family.

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Working with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state health officials, you can rest assured that daycare owners are taking every precaution to protect your little ones from COVID-19. But it's not going to look like it did pre-pandemic, so here are a few big things you can likely expect from your child care center depending on where you live.

Safety Measures Daycares Are Taking to Lower the Risk of COVID-19

Kids will be screened daily.

  • Children and staff who are sick or who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to stay home. A larger outbreak might require the facility to close for two weeks.
  • Pickup and drop-off times will be staggered and done outside of the facility, with one parent or caregiver being designated to come to the center at a given time. Parents must wear a face covering.
  • Temperatures of children and staff will be taken and recorded daily, and may be repeated throughout the day; those with 100.4 and over will not be able to enter. Some states—like New Jersey—actually require daycares to submit these temperature logs.
  • Parents will also be asked whether or not the child has recently been near someone with COVID-19 or if anyone at home is sick. If the answer is "yes," they will not be able to enter.

Social distancing and hand-washing will be enforced.

  • Staff may be required to wear cloth face masks, and it may be recommended for children over the age of 2. (Here are some tips to get your kids to wear a mask.)
  • Hand-washing will be implemented immediately upon entering the center, and frequently throughout the day.
  • Social distancing will be reinforced as much as possible, with children split into smaller groups. They will remain with the same caregiver and group all day, which means no communal eating, playing with other classes, or assemblies.
  • Visitors will be prohibited.
  • Outdoor time is suggested as much as possible, but social distancing should continue. Any outdoor toys will be disinfected before the next group comes out to play.

Cleaning will be taken up a notch.

  • Surfaces and objects that are frequently touched will be even more thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Toys will be disinfected between use.
  • Sensory play (think water tables or sandboxes), plush toys, and anything that would not easily be cleaned between uses will not be permitted.
  • Every child should have their own supplies to limit contact. Shared crayons or scissors, for example, would be harder to clean during an activity.

Since most of us have been home and not challenging our immune systems like we typically would, Dr. Jill says that being too clean and too sheltered can actually make us more susceptible to illness in the coming months, and that definitely goes for kids in child care centers. That's why proper nutrition, exercise, a good night's sleep, and frequent hand-washing are more important than ever to boost your family's immune system.

Still not sure if you'll be sending your kids back to daycare? Setting up a time to talk to your center's director—if they haven't reached out to you already—is the first step to ensure that they're taking every step necessary to protect your kids. You've got to trust your gut and do what feels right for your family—whether that means sending them or keeping them home.

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