Licensed Child Care Centre Guidance

January 2022 - Every early learning and child care centre in PEI must develop and follow an operational plan which details how risk of transmission of disease will be mitigated. Operators will be required to present this plan to a Public Health Official if, and when, a visit to the centre occurs. The COVID-19 Operational Plan Template can be found online.

The continued operation of licensed child care centres will be dependent on local epidemiology and the ongoing impact of the Omicron variant in PEI.  Cases of COVID-19 are anticipated at licensed child care centres, however, public health measures to minimize risk and increase safety in child care settings will be in place.

Enhanced Public Health Measures in Licensed Child Care Centres

The guidance that follows expands on guidance that was previously in place.  Public health directives to individuals supersedes all guidelines contained here.

Enhanced Public Health Measures
Vaccination

Recommend everyone eligible get vaccinated with a complete series of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 and its variants.  Evidence on vaccine effectiveness against the Omicron variant continues to be gathered.  Although breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals occur, current vaccines approved for use in Canada appear to provide good protection against serious outcomes and hospitalization from this variant.

Screening and Management of Symptoms of COVID-19

All children and staff must complete daily home screening for symptoms of COVID-19 using the screening tool.  Parents and caregivers are responsible for assessing their children daily before sending them to a centre.

If a child or staff person is feeling unwell or experiencing new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should stay home and access testing at a drop-in testing clinic at the earliest opportunity and self-isolate until the results are back.

Parents and caregivers may use an at-home rapid antigen screening test if a child is exhibiting a single mild symptom of COVID-19.

  • Children can return to a child care centre after one negative rapid antigen test result, so long as symptoms are improving and not worsening.
  • Children are still encouraged to stay home when they are actively symptomatic to reduce the impact on others.
  • The test must be repeated after 48 hours.
  • Parents/caregivers must use the health screening questionnaire daily to determine if the child should attend a child care centre.

When assessing for COVID-19 symptoms, it is important to think about the time of year and what is usual for that person.

  • Are the symptoms normal for this person (e.g. asthmatic cough, chronic runny nose), or
  • Are the symptoms new and worsening? Is the person feeling unwell (e.g. fever, new cough, etc.).

Testing guidance may evolve over time, refer to the most up to date information on the testing webpage.

Centres should follow their standard procedures for children, staff and essential visitors who become sick during the day.   For example:

  • If a child develops symptoms while at the centre, the child is to be isolated in a separate room or area away from other children. The parent/caregiver is to be notified to pick up the child immediately.
  • If the child requires close contact and care, staff members can continue to care for the child until the parent/caregiver arrives. Staff members must wear a mask and be mindful of handwashing and avoid contact with the respiratory secretions of the child.
  • All items, bedding, toys etc. used by the child that day must be removed from the play area and be cleaned and sanitized, or cleaned and sanitized in place
Hand Hygiene

Ensure hand washing stations or hand sanitizing products are available and accessible to staff, children and all persons who enter and exit the centre (including parents/guardians at drop-off and pick-up).

Regular hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to reduce the spread of illness. Encourage and make it easy for staff and children to practice good hand hygiene.

Staff should help young children wash their hands to ensure it is done correctly.

It is very important that staff and children properly clean their hands often, including:

  • At the start of the day and before going home;
  • After using the washroom;
  • After assisting a child who has used the washroom;
  • After a diaper change;
  • Before preparing and/or serving food;
  • Before and after eating or feeding a child;
  • After getting hands dirty;
  • After wiping or blowing their nose or a child's nose;
  • After sneezing or coughing;
  • Before giving medication to a child;
  • After caring for a sick child;
  • After cleaning (specific to staff members);
  • After any other activity that may contaminate hands (e.g. outdoor play, sensory play, etc.) and
  • Before and after handling shared items (e.g. books, toys, etc.).

Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) is not recommended for routine use in child care centres.

Staff and children should avoid touching their face, eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and if they do touch these areas, they should then wash their hands immediately.

Cough or sneeze into the elbow or a disposable tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately and then wash hands.

Child care centres should ensure that signage on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette is clearly posted throughout the centre.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Maintain enhanced cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces.

Toys should be cleaned when visibly soiled and sanitized as required (at least once weekly).  Mouthed toys, or toys that were handled by a sick child or a child exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should be cleaned and sanitized after each use.

Ventilation Open windows when possible, and when weather permits.
Masking

All staff and visitors, including parents and caregivers, and regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear good quality masks (preferably 3-layer masks) in all indoor areas of child care centres.  

Children age 2 and older are recommended to wear a mask in all indoor areas of child care centres.

Masks are not required outdoors.

Exemptions to mask requirements include:

  • Children under the age of 2
  • Children between the ages of 2 and 5 who cannot be persuaded to wear a mask
  • A person who cannot wear a mask for health or behavioural reasons
  • A person unable to put on or take off a mask without the assistance of another person
  • If the mask is removed temporarily in order to identify the person wearing it
  • If the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that would otherwise be inhibited by the mask (i.e. engaging in physical activity, playing a wind instrument, etc.)
  • Staff may remove their mask if it inhibits instruction, while maintaining physical distancing
  • While actively eating or drinking
  • While providing a service to a person where visual cues, facial expression, lip reading, etc. are required

See the Wearing Masks in the Community and Workplace guidance for further information on mask use.

Cohorting and Play Groups  

Maintain current educator/children ratios.

Children are encouraged to select a small, consistent group of friends to associate with in the child care centre.

Visitors should be limited to essential activities for supporting programming.

Physical Distancing 

Physical distancing is required in all staff areas.

Centres must create space between people wherever possible:

  • Use all available space to spread out, for example:
    • Use different common space and activity configurations
    • Avoid face-to-face seating arrangements except within consistent play groups
  • Prevent crowding during pick-up and drop-off times, and during transition times between activities, for example:
    • Manage flow in common areas to minimize crowding and ensure people can pass through common areas easily
    • Include signage in entry/exit areas to encourage physical distancing between parents and caregivers during pick-up and drop-off
Gatherings and Events  No in-person gatherings at child care centres, including but not limited to children’s concerts, family engagement events, etc.
Vulnerable Children and Staff Vulnerable children and staff can attend; they may want to consult with their health care provider.
Testing

Child care centres are being provided rapid antigen tests to supply to children and staff to facilitate testing at home.  Home testing is intended to aid in early detection of positive cases and reduce incidence and impacts of outbreaks in child care centres.

Information on how to use rapid antigen tests is available online.

In the event of a positive rapid antigen screening test, the child or staff person must have a confirmatory test at a drop-in testing clinic at the earliest opportunity, and not attend the centre until they’ve received a negative result from a testing clinic. If a confirmatory test at a drop-in clinic is not available, the child or staff person must isolate at home for 24 hours and take another rapid antigen test.  If this follow-up test is negative the student or staff person may attend the centre.

Licensed Child Care Centres – Frequently Asked Questions

Vaccination

Can a parent who is not fully vaccinated enter the building during pick-up/drop-off?

Yes.  

However, all parents should be restricted to the entry during pick-up/drop-off, unless their presence inside is required for the safety of the child. Parents must follow public health measures (e.g. proper masking, practicing proper hand hygiene, not entering if ill, etc.).  

For more information on vaccines, click here.

Health Screening and Testing

Do I have to complete a screening form for each child when they arrive?

No. Parents/caregivers must review the health screening questionnaire daily to determine whether the child should attend the centre. Educators should continue to monitor children for symptoms throughout the day.  

If a child has known allergies which mimic COVID-19 symptoms should they be excluded?

No. If symptoms worsen or if new ones appear the child should be excluded and tested at a testing clinic.  

How long should children/staff be excluded when experiencing symptoms?

If a child is experiencing a single mild symptom, they can return to the centre after a negative rapid antigen test (that test should be repeated in 48 hours).

If a child is experiencing more than one symptom, or a single symptom is worsening, they can return to the centre once symptom free.  

If a staff is experiencing any symptoms (regardless of severity), they can return to the centre once symptom free. 

If a staff member exhibits a single symptom can they attend work?

No, symptomatic staff must remain home until they are symptom free.

If a child exhibits a single symptom can they attend the centre?

Yes, as long as they have tested negative using a rapid antigen test or clinic-based test within the previous 24 hours. 

Can rapid antigen tests be used for children under 2 years old?

Yes. A rapid antigen test can be used on any age depending on the parents/caregivers comfort level to administer the test.  

If a child has a single symptom and tests negative with a rapid antigen test, but then develops another symptom, can they take a second rapid antigen test and attend the centre if both are negative?

No. At this point the child should be tested at a testing clinic and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. The child can return to the centre when symptom free and feeling better.

For more information on self-testing, click here.

For more information on testing clinics, click here.

What should I do if only one parent/caregiver can pick up a child and that parent is experiencing symptoms?

If possible, the parent/caregiver should call when they arrive at the centre so staff can meet the parent at the door with the child. Both the parent/caregiver and staff must be properly masked.

We received rapid antigen test kits from the Chief Public Health Office, when should we use these?

These rapid antigen tests should be used to test asymptomatic staff and children every 3 days.  Each staff and child will be provided with enough tests to complete 3 tests weekly for 4 weeks.  

Parents/caregivers may also wish to use a rapid antigen test on their child who is experiencing a single mild symptom.  

Symptomatic staff or a child who is experiencing multiple symptoms should test at a testing clinic.

Masking

What should I do if a parent/caregiver cannot wear a mask?

Preferably a parent/caregiver who can wear a mask would complete drop-off/pick-up. If this is not possible, the unmasked parent/caregiver must maintain physical distance and not enter if experiencing symptoms.

What should I do if a staff member cannot wear a mask?

Ideally, this staff member would be assigned to tasks which do not require interaction with others (children or co-workers) in the centre. 

Are we required to make sure children over 2 years are wearing masks at all times?

No. It is recommended that children age 2-6 wear a mask while indoor, but not required. Some children may not be capable of properly wearing a mask while others may be very capable.  

Should children wear a mask while napping?

No. Even if a child is capable of wearing a mask while indoors, the mask should not be worn during nap time.  

What should I do if a child doesn’t wear their mask properly or keeps taking it off?

A mask should be removed if a child is not capable of wearing it properly.

For more information on masking, click here.

Physical Distancing

If parents are wearing masks at drop-off/pick-up are they required to physical distance?

Yes. Physical distancing between members of different households is required to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Wearing masks is an added layer of protection.  

Are parents allowed into the centre to help un-dress/dress their children?

Parents should not enter the centre unless it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the child.  

There isn’t enough space to keep sleep mats/cots 6ft apart, what should I do?

Make an effort to line sleep mats/cots head to toe to increase the distance between breathing zones for each child.  

Is it safe to hand a baby or bag to a parent/caregiver?

Yes, as long as interactions are brief, and both the parent/caregiver and staff are properly masked.

For more information on physical distancing, click here.

Self-Isolation and Travel

If a child tests positive for COVID-19, when can they return to the centre?

After 10 days of isolation if they are symptom free and deemed recovered.

If a child has been identified as a close contact, when can they return to the centre?

7 days after their last exposure to the case if they are symptom free and have received a negative test result from a testing clinic.

If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19, when can they return to work?

7 days (fully vaccinated) or 10 days (unvaccinated or partially vaccinated) after testing positive, if they are symptom free.

A staff member has been identified as a close contact, when can they return to work?

96 hours (fully vaccinated) or 7 days (unvaccinated or partially vaccinated) after their last exposure to the case if they are symptom free and have received a negative test result from a testing clinic.

Can I request proof of completion of self-isolation from staff or children before returning to the centre?

No. A parent/caregiver will determine when they have completed self-isolation based on advice from public health.  

If a child under 5 years travels out of Province with their parent/caregiver, how long are they required to self-isolate for?

Isolation requirements for children less than 12 years will mimic those of the parent/caregiver they traveled with.  If the parent is fully vaccinated, the child will isolate for 4 days.  If the parent/caregiver is partially vaccinated or not vaccinated, the child will isolate for 8 days.

A child traveled with their parent/caregiver and the parent was exempt from isolation for ‘same-day travel’.  Can the child attend the centre?

Yes, if the parent/caregiver was exempt from self-isolation, the child is also exempt.  

For more information on self-isolation, click here.

For more information on testing positive for COVID-19, click here.

For more information on same day-travel, click here.

Test-to-Stay

Can a child care centre apply to “test-to-stay”?

Yes. However, a child care centre should only apply as a last resort.

Who qualifies to test-to-stay?

A staff member who is identified as a close contact can work-isolate (test-to-stay) for 96 hours (fully vaccinated) or 7 days (unvaccinated or partially vaccinated). The staff member must remain asymptomatic and follow a daily testing schedule:

  • Test at a testing clinic once identified as a close contact.  If negative, repeat testing at a testing clinic on days 2 and 4 if fully vaccinated or days 2, 4 and 7 if not fully vaccinated.
  • Complete antigen tests on days without a test at a testing clinic until last day of work-isolation.

Is it okay for staff to complete antigen tests while at work?

No. Antigen tests should be performed at home in case the test result is positive.  

What happens if a staff member tests at a testing clinic and tests positive?

The staff member must self-isolate and not return to work until they are deemed recovered.

If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19 but is not experiencing any symptoms, can they apply to work-isolate through the test-to-stay policy?

No. The test-to-stay policy is not intended for staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.

For more information on the test-to-stay policy and application, click here.  

For more information on work-isolation, click here.

If you have questions about the test-to-stay policy, email testtostay@gov.pe.ca

Published date: 
January 13, 2022
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121

DeptHW@gov.pe.ca