COVID-19 Update from the Office of Early Childhood | March 20

Dear Colorado Child Care Providers,

As we all work through this challenging and ever-changing situation, we want to continue to provide you with updates and guidance on COVID-19. The Office of Early Childhood (OEC) and all of the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) recognize how difficult, and often frightening, the past days have been, and the coming days might be. We will continue to do everything possible to keep you informed and help you navigate this unprecedented time.

OPERATIONS GUIDANCE
On March 18, 2020, the Governor issued an executive order that required all schools in Colorado to “suspend normal, in-person instruction” from March 23 to April 17. This includes public preschools on public school campuses.

The executive order also directed local public health agencies to work with child care providers and preschools not operated by P-12 schools to determine if it is safe to continue operations. The order states that if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a child, caretaker of a child, or staff member, the facility must close for at least 72 hours. During this closure a facility should conduct a thorough cleaning as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) continues to provide guidance that child care programs that have not had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a child, caretaker of a child, or staff member may remain open, but should continue to follow the guidance of their local public health department as this is a rapidly evolving situation. Additionally, if parents can keep their children home due to their modified work status, that approach is encouraged. Whether Public Health Orders apply to a business or not, all Coloradans are encouraged to be strong stewards of the social distancing guidelines listed in the Order.

According to CDPHE, open child care facilities must ensure the guidelines provided by the CDC and CDPHE are implemented to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Both the CDC and CDPHE continue to update their webpages with guidance on cleaning, preparedness, closure and much more. These public health resources remain the best source of information to ensure the safety of children and staff. As in normal operations, providers should exclude sick children. Implementing practices to ask parents of any symptoms in their homes, or any exposure to suspect or confirmed COVID-19, is appropriate.

In addition to the executive order issued by the Governor, CDPHE released a Public Health Order to limit mass gatherings of 10 or more people. The order became effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 19, 2020, and applies to all of Colorado.

CDPHE guidance does not require child care providers to limit the number of children in their facility to 10 or less. However, social distancing should be implemented whenever practicable. Keep children in small groups, increase outdoor playtime and continue to follow all of the cleaning and safety guidance provided by the CDC and CDPHE (linked above), as well as guidance from your local public health department.

The OEC and CDHS commend all of you for your dedication to the safety and well-being of the children you care for. We understand why many of you have taken steps to close, either because you were required to or you opted to do so voluntarily. These are very difficult decisions in unprecedented times.

COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)
If you are a provider that accepts CCCAP, we recognize the impact of this pandemic is particularly difficult for you, your staff and the families you serve. The Governor has approved additional funding for the Department to support counties that adopt policies to continue to pay providers for absences or closures as a result of COVID-19.

EMERGENCY CHILD CARE 
We know that many essential and emergency workers have young children, and without child care they will not be able to return to the jobs that are most crucial to supporting our communities and containing the spread of COVID-19.

It is for that reason that Governor Polis called together a group of early childhood providers, advocacy groups, school districts and foundations to partner with CDHS and the OEC to do everything possible to establish a system of emergency child care for our most essential workforce combating the spread of COVID-19. The website for this effort is https://covidchildcarecolorado.com. Many more details about this effort will be shared with you shortly.

PLANNED EARLY CHILDHOOD UPDATES
We pledge to share updates with you as quickly as possible. We continue to work closely with the Governor’s Office, county departments of human services, Early Childhood Councils (ECCs), public health and other stakeholders to address the many questions that continue to be elevated to the OEC. Knowing that guidance and information is changing rapidly, we plan to have at least weekly communications with you to help you stay informed.

We have also been gathering some of your frequently asked questions and answers to those questions. That FAQ resource will be shared shortly and will be continually updated so you have a place to go for common concerns.

Our communications and the FAQ resource will be sent via email and will also be available on the Colorado Shines website (www.coloradoshines.com). Please don’t hesitate to continue to reach out with concerns or questions at cdhs_oec_communications@state.co.us.

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