The coronavirus pandemic has changed how many of us live our day to day lives, but some of the biggest impacts have been felt by the youngest in age and those that care for them at childcare facilities. It was recently announced that emergency COVID restrictions are being lifted from Texas daycares, and the change is raising lots of questions about what this actually means and what families can come to expect.
We know that Texas daycares have had extra challenges throughout the duration of the pandemic; and, now that things are changing again, our goal is to provide you with the critical information you need to care for the children and families you serve.
About the Original Emergency Pandemic Guidelines for Daycares
Earlier in the pandemic, the Executive Commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services Commission temporarily adopted Title 26 Texas Administrative Code §745.10005. The goal of this emergency pandemic code was to ensure daycare operations were following specific health and safety guidelines designed to keep children, staff, and families as safe as possible during the coronavirus spread. At the time of its adoption, the rule was made to be in effect for no longer than 120 days, with a possibility to renew it for only sixty days.
The emergency code was created for adherence by:
- Before and after school programs
- Childcare centers
- Licensed childcare homes
- Registered childcare homes
- School-age programs
Requirements Listed in the Pandemic Emergency Code for Childcare Operations
The emergency guidelines were specific and detailed in what was expected of childcare operations. Some of the guidelines established for the duration of the order were:
- Comply with current CDC Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open (includes mask wearing, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette rules)
- Ensure all caregivers and staff: a) take a specific online COVID training course, b) report their illnesses and symptoms, c) consult with local or state entities if they were in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, d) encourage personnel 65+ years of age or individuals at high risk to speak to a healthcare professional about the risks of continuing to work
- Ensure all persons entering the facility: a) have their temperature taken and have a temperature under 100.4 degrees, b) do not show signs of a respiratory infection, c) have not had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, d) do not have a COVID diagnosis
- Oversee pick-up and drop-off of children via: a) limiting in-person contact between caregivers and parents, b) creating an outdoor pick up and drop off process if possible
- Follow strict diaper changing, bib, and clothing guidelines
- Utilize signage encouraging proper hand washing
- Require any suddenly ill staff member with symptoms of COVID-19 to exit the premises immediately
- Follow strict food preparation guidelines
Guidance for Childcare Operations After Expiration of TAC §745.10005
The emergency rule of TAC §745.10005 explained in part above expired as of April 20, 2021 and was not extended. Upon its expiration, the Texas Health and Human Services website recommended providers continue to track changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for Operating Child Care Programs, which generally includes advice regarding:
- Communal spaces
- Food services
- Mask use
- Playgrounds and play spaces
- Ventilation systems
- Water systems
What the Lifting of Restrictions from Texas Daycares Means
While the lifting of restrictions at daycares is a change, for many families it is a welcome one. In the early stages of the pandemic, these restrictions were put in place to help protect the wellbeing of staff, children, and parents; but, as vaccines become available and the state of Texas opens back up, there are many staff and families ready to make their way back toward normal again.
The expiration of restrictions at daycares may mean the following for childcare families:
- Easing of some pandemic precautions. With the state’s restrictions lifted, childcare operations will likely be implementing some eased pandemic guidelines as it relates to wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, and temperature checks.
- Allowing indoor pickup and drop off. While pick up and drop off procedures were limited to outdoors before, parents should now be allowed back into the building for both practices as appropriate.
- Parents in the classroom. Parents of daycare families have missed the transparency that can come with being able to drop by their child’s classroom and see them in their learning environment firsthand. The lifting of emergency pandemic restrictions allows them to make that return.
Although staff and families will see many adjustments as a return to normal life during a pandemic ensues, one thing that should not change is a childcare operation’s dedication to excellent care of the children and families they serve.
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