A new report from the CDC and Rhode Island shows COVID-19 rates below one percent in childcare facilities with young children this summer. They also found a low rate of secondary transmission among these facilities, with 15 percent of coronavirus cases resulting in transmission to at least one other person.
“The critical thing here is to build the confidence of teachers, the confidence of parents,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This study provides data, that when things are done with vigilance in partnership with the public health community, you can, in fact, in a complex situation like child care ... you can reopen child care" and have low rates of secondary transmission.
The study tracked coronavirus cases at childcare facilities in Rhode Island this summer. On June 1, the state was seeing a decline in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, and allowed childcare programs to re-open after a 3-month closure.
In order to reopen, the facility had to submit a plan to the state for approval that included reduced enrollment, a cohort of no more than 20 people including kids and staff, universal use of masks for adults, and daily symptom screening of adults and kids.
Roughly 75 percent of licensed center and home-based childcare facilities were approved to reopen, caring for 18,945 children.
Between June 1 and July 31, there were 101 possible child care-associated COVID-19 cases identified at the facility level; among those, 49 were excluded because they had a negative COVID-19 test.
Of the remaining 52 confirmed and probable cases, 30 were children; that is roughly .16 percent of the 18,945 children in childcare in Rhode Island this summer. There were 20 teachers and 2 parents who are among the confirmed or probable cases.
Cases were confirmed an average of two days after specimen collection.
Contact tracing led to the quarantine of 687 children and 166 staff members; that’s roughly 3.6 percent of the total children in Rhode Island care facilities this summer being impacted by quarantine efforts.
The cases happened at 29 of the 666 childcare facilities, in 20 of the facilities, there was a single coronavirus case and no transmission. Five of the 29 programs, 15 percent, had two to five cases.
The remaining four coronavirus cases may or may not have had secondary transmission. Health officials state those facilities were breaking protocol by moving members of a cohort around to other classrooms, delayed reporting of symptoms, etc. that made it difficult to track.
The CDC warns these results were only possible because of decreasing COVID-19 rates in the state, and the community effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. This includes wearing masks and practicing social distancing when around other people.
“I understand masks can be uncomfortable to wear and hard to remember to bring when you go out,” Dr. Redfield said. “Schools are not islands in and of themselves, they are connected to the communities around them.”
The study says maintaining stable staffing was one of the most difficult things; needing to cover teacher breaks, vacations, etc. while still maintaining the smaller cohort sizes.
They recommend additional funding to continue with the smaller class sizes.