Child Care During COVID-19

Keeping children healthy and safe

What health and safety requirements are currently in place in programs?

  • Staff in child care and youth camp (vaccinated and unvaccinated) are still required to wear masks indoors in child care and youth camps. Children age 3 and older in child care and youth camps must also continue to wear masks indoors, with a few exceptions.  For more information, see the section on masks below.
  • Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, OEC required child care and youth camps to meet certain licensing requirements, including regular cleaning and other health and safety procedures. We inspect programs regularly to make sure they’re meeting those requirements.

Is there other guidance that child care programs and youth camps should be following during COVID-19?

OEC encourages programs to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Keep in mind that other laws, rules, and regulations will affect the rules programs follow — and that programs can choose to set their own policies, too.

If you have questions about a program or camp’s policies, ask the staff. 

If we travel, can I still send my child to child care or camp afterwards?

Child care programs and camps set their own rules about travel — so make sure to talk to them before you leave. Some may have limits on how soon your child can come back after traveling. Ask if they have a written policy. You can also learn about Connecticut’s general guidance and rules related to travel during COVID-19 here.

Are teachers required to get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

No, but the state of Connecticut strongly encourages teachers to get the COVID shot. Specific child care programs and youth camps may set their own requirements about staff vaccinations.

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

Connecticut does not require the vaccine for children to attend a child care program or youth camp.  Programs may set their own requirements for vaccines for those who are old enough to get a vaccine (currently 12 years and older).

Wearing masks

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

Connecticut does require children age 3 and older to wear masks inside at child care programs and camps. 

Here are situations when children do not need to wear masks:

  • Connecticut does not require that any children wear masks outside in child care programs and camps. However, individual programs may still require it.
  • 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.
  • Children in Residential Camps who are a part of a “household cohort” do not need to wear masks when they are together as long as no non-household cohort members are nearby.
  • 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.

Do kids have to wear masks at all times when indoors?

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..

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. This is especially important for young children because they cannot get the vaccine yet. 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 classrooms or programs because of new cases of COVID-19.

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 may show no symptoms of COVID-19 and still be able to spread this virus

The CDC has provided this Science Brief on the Use of cloth Masks to control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).  It includes information about the effectively of masks.

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.

When will Connecticut change its mask policies? I’ve heard that other states no longer require children to wear masks in child care programs.

Each state sets its own requirements for mask policies based on lots of factors — including regional COVID-19 rates, emerging science, and recommendations from experts. Our goal is to follow the best available evidence to keep children and families safe in Connecticut. We continually evaluate and adjust policies based on current evidence. For the time being, Connecticut is maintaining our current mask policies.

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. 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.

Also, keep in mind that children who just turned 3 and children who are newly enrolled may be allowed 2 months to get used to wearing a mask. Your child will not be excluded if they’re still learning to wear a mask safely and consistently.

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 when indoors.

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.

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 May 28, 2021