Child Care During COVID-19

Keeping children healthy and safe

How are child care programs and camps keeping children safe?

The Office of Early Childhood (OEC) has created guidelines — based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) — to keep children in child care programs and camps safe during COVID-19. Child care programs are required to have a written policy about wearing masks, increase their cleaning, conduct health screenings, reduce group sizes, and make other changes.

Are children and staff screened every day?

Yes, it’s one of the “enhanced requirements” for licensed child care programs and camps during COVID-19. Every child and staff at child care programs get screened each day for symptoms, like fever, a new cough or breathing problems.

I have to travel to other states for work. Can I still send my child to child care or camp?

You need to talk to your child care program or camp directly before you travel. Ask if they have a written policy related to travel.

The current Travel Advisory requires people who have spent more than 24 hours in states with higher levels of COVID-19 to stay home (quarantine) for 14 days. Learn more about the policy and how it affects child care.

Will my child’s teacher be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine soon? 

Based on the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group’s recommendation, child care staff will be in the next phase of vaccine administration.  This phase may begin as soon as January 18, 2021.

As soon as we know more, we’ll update this page. Learn more about Vaccine Advisory Group’s work.

Does my child need to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend child care?

No, because the vaccine has not been approved for children. Only people age 16 and older can get it.

Wearing masks

Do my children have to wear masks during child care or camps?

OEC’s policy requires that children 3 years and older need to wear masks while in child care programs and camps. This requirement went into effect on September 21, 2020. However, child care programs will have until October 19, 2020 to phase in this new rule.

Children under 3 years of age are not required to wear masks. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that children under age 2 shouldn’t wear masks at all. Make sure to review the written policy that your child’s program shares with you. OEC’s flyer also has more information:

Do kids have to wear masks all day?

No. For example, children will be able to take their masks off when they eat or nap, (as long as they are spaced far apart, at least 6 feet whenever possible). They can also remove their masks for outdoor activities. Programs may also have other scheduled mask breaks, as long as indoor mask breaks space kids at least 6 feet apart wherever possible.

But kids didn’t have to wear masks before — what changed?

Over time, with ongoing research, we’re learning more about ways to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. This requirement is based on updated guidance from Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Why is wearing a mask important?

Having your child wear a mask will help protect them from COVID-19. But that’s not all. It will also help protect other children, staff, and everyone they have contact with. Wearing masks is a way you and your child can help take care of your community. And it’s a way to help child care programs stay open — instead of having to close because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.

What’s the evidence that masks help?

Here’s what the experts say:

  • Masks help stop children and adults from spreading COVID-19 through the air
  • Children can carry very high levels of COVID-19, which can make it easier to spread
  • Children may show no symptoms of COVID-19 and still be able to spread this virus

You can read more in these medical sources:

But I’ve heard that masks might not be good for young children.

There’s a lot of misinformation online right now, so it’s important to listen to the experts — people have dedicated their lives to studying diseases like COVID-19 and keeping children safe. Experts say that the risks you may read about on social media (for example, that masks cause low oxygen levels) are not true. To learn more, read the American Academy of Pediatrics Mask Mythbusters and share it with family and friends.

What kind of mask should my child wear?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that cloth face coverings with more than one layer of washable, breathable fabric are a good choice. Pleated face coverings with elastic may work best for kids. Getting a snug fit and covering both the nose and mouth is important. Learn more from the AAP.

The CDC also has guidance for making your own masks. Learn how to make masks at home.

What if my child doesn’t like wearing a mask or keeps taking it off?

Some children may react that way, especially at first — it’s normal. But wearing a mask is a healthy habit you’re helping them learn, like washing their hands. Like other habits, mask wearing will take time to learn and requires practice. Talk about why it’s important and practice at home. Try to model a positive attitude about wearing a mask — without expressing negative feelings that children will hear or observe.

Work with your child’s program on how you teach this skill. And don’t worry — your child will not be excluded if they’re still learning to wear a mask safely and consistently.

You may be surprised — your child may become used to it faster than you expect. This flyer has suggestions for how to encourage your child to wear a mask.

Will my child have time to get used to this requirement?

Talk to your child’s program about how they will help children and families adjust to these new routines.

  • Child care programs can plan a phase-in up until October 19, 2020.
  • Children who just turned 3 and children who are newly enrolled may be allowed 2 months to get used to wearing a mask.

What if wearing a mask isn’t safe for my child? Will they be able to go to child care?

If your child has a medical condition, special health need, disability, special education need, or developmental need that makes wearing a mask unsafe, they may not be required to wear one. You just need to make sure the need for an exception is documented. Work with medical and/or special education professionals and your child’s program to come up with a plan that works best to keep everyone safe.

For full details about exceptions to the mask requirement, you can read OEC Memo #29.

Do staff members at my child care or camp have to wear masks?

Yes, staff at your child’s child care program or camp are required to wear masks or other face coverings. They also need to follow the safe workplace rules for essential employees from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Those rules do allow them to take off their masks outside, as long as they remain at least 6 feet away from children and other staff.

When your child is sick

What should I do if my child has COVID-19 — or has been around someone who has it?

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, keep them home and follow their doctor’s advice. You also need to call your child care program or camp, so staff can take steps to protect other children and staff.

If your child is healthy but was around someone with COVID-19, CDC recommends that they stay home (quarantine) for 14 days.

My child isn’t feeling well, but I don’t think it’s COVID-19. What should I do?

Right now, it’s important to be extra cautious. So if your child seems sick, you need to keep them home. It’s the best way for all of us to keep each other safe.

How will you know when it’s okay to bring your child back to child care or camp? Check with your doctor, talk with your child’s program about their policies, and keep an eye on your child’s symptoms.

My child has a health issue — is child care safe for them?

The best advice is to talk to your child’s doctor. Together, you can make a decision about whether child care is okay for your child. Then, you can talk to staff at your child’s child care program or camp and get their support.

Finding child care

How can I find child care during COVID-19?

2-1-1 Child Care makes it easy to find spots in child care programs in your area. Dial 2-1-1 or 800-505-1000. You can also use the Child Care Finder on their website

2-1-1 Child Care keeps track of programs in Connecticut, so they’ll know about any open spots. While some programs had to close during COVID-19, many never did — and others have reopened since.

Do you work for a local Board of Education?

We know that finding child care may be especially important for your family as schools reopen. To help, the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) has collaborated with the United Way of Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Child Care to provide a dedicated support line for educators. Board of Education staff can call 860-756-0864 to get help finding child care.

United Way staff will help you identify and connect with a child care provider and refer you to an open program, if available. You can also ask staff to contact providers on your behalf to confirm vacancies and help secure a spot for your child. Please note that we are not paying for child care as part of this program.

If my child care has to close during COVID-19, will I still be charged for enrollment?

Child care programs usually have a policy about what happens if they need to close temporarily. Some may require that you keep paying if you want to hold your spot until they can reopen. Check your records or get in touch with your program to find out.

If you have any questions, ask your child care provider about their approach.Want more details on the rules child care programs are following COVID-19?

Have more questions?

Are you struggling to pay for food during the emergency? Need emotional support — or answers to questions about your child’s behavior? Check out supports for families during COVID-19.

Wondering how to talk to your child about COVID-19? Looking for ways to make sure your child is learning at home? Find out how to support your child’s development at home.

You can also get more details in our in-depth Frequently Asked Questions:
Child Care and COVID-19
Care 4 Kids and COVID-19
Birth to Three: Early Intervention Supports During COVID-19 Q&A
Birth to Three: Extending Supports During COVID-19 to Children Who Turn 3 Q&A
Home Visiting Town Hall Questions Summary

Last updated January 13, 2021