Story at a glance

  • The Trump administration has advocated for children to return to school and child care programs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been rising in many states as the winter ushers in a third wave of the pandemic.

Five months after the national debate over sending children back to school and other child care programs amid the coronavirus pandemic, the results are in; while several universities and school systems were forced to shut down after COVID-19 outbreaks on campus, a new report shows the success of preventative measures taken by federal childcare programs. 

"Support to staff members and parents were critical components for these programs to help minimize the potential for negative consequences that can be associated with child care center closure, including providers’ loss of jobs and wages, parents’ challenges when returning to work, and children’s diminished educational, social, and nutritional opportunities," said a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that studied seven of eight Head Start programs nationwide, representing 55 centers.


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The Trump administration pushed for schools to reopen this summer and even sought to exert influence over the CDC, which has gone back and forth on guidance. After Head Start programs closed in April and May, the federally funded programs reopened with a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning. Three of these programs identified nine cases in three centers, with one to four cases per center, during May and June, according to the report, and closed for two weeks afterwards.  

In interviews with Head Start directors in Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Missouri and Wisconsin, the CDC found that flexibility with staff — including medical leave, remote working options and enhanced benefits — allowed those at increased risk to stay home without "fear of job loss or other consequences." The report also offered a list of mitigation strategies ranging from everyday prevention actions to response to illness as well as communications and support. 


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Published on Dec 18, 2020