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Here Are LA County's New Child Care Guidelines For Operating During The Omicron Wave

A young boy with a mask on plays with colorful blocks.
New guidelines recommend children wear masks indoors and outdoors when not socially distanced from other children.
(Mariana Dale
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The L.A. County Department of Public Health updated the coronavirus safety guidelines for early childhood education providers this week amid surging cases of COVID-19.

Here Are L.A. County's New Child Care Guidelines For Operating During The Omicron Wave

For grown-ups and kids 5 and older, vaccination against COVID-19 is still the top recommendation to keep child care centers safely open and to combat the spread of the omicron variant. Public health officials also want everyone in higher quality masks.

“Throughout this pandemic, starting from March 2020, early child care education centers have been open, and they've been safe,” said Nava Yeganeh, the county’s medical director for vaccine preventable disease control. “I would imagine that they would continue to be safe through the omicron wave.”

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Research up to this point shows preschools and child care centers are not major drivers of COVID-19 infections, but children and staff can become infected, sometimes without symptoms, and then spread the coronavirus to others.

Licensed L.A. County child care centers and homes have reported more than 4,000 coronavirus cases in staff, children and parents since the start of the pandemic. That number reflects the virus' spread in the community, not necessarily in the facilities themselves.

Throughout this pandemic, starting from March 2020, early child care education centers have been open, and they've been safe.
— Nava Yeganeh, L.A. County Department of Public Health

Public health experts have said for months that it takes multiple strategies to keep kids and the people who care for them safe. Providers may ask staff and families to follow rules that are more strict than what the county requires.

“These schools and caregiving centers are an incredible part of their childhood experience,” Yeganeh said. “We should use every tool we have in our toolbox to keep them safe, to keep them open.”

Stricter Mask Rules For Child Care Staff, Recommendations For Kids

Child care providers will have to provide better quality masks for their employees, i.e., surgical or KN95 or N95 masks, by Jan. 17.

The Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles is currently in the process of distributing 2 million masks through local resource and referral agencies.

Children 2 and older must continue to mask indoors and should also wear face coverings when playing outside and not spread out from other kids.

“It is strongly recommended but not required that students wear upgraded masks which at a minimum are well-fitting, non-cloth masks of multiple layers of non-woven material with a nose wire,” read the newest guidelines, but they also ask providers to respect parental preference when it comes to what type of mask a child uses.

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Booster Doses For Grown Ups

“I think we have a lot of really important tools, and the number one tool is vaccination,” Yeganeh said.

All eligible child care staff should receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. We have a handy guide for how to get one.

Shorter Quarantines For The Unvaccinated Or Boosted With A Negative Test

These people are exempt from quarantine: Adults and children who are fully vaccinated and boosted, show no symptoms and can provide a negative FDA-authorized COVID-19 test result. Testing is recommended immediately after exposure and then again after five days.

These people can follow a modified quarantine: Children or adults who are not vaccinated or boosted (if eligible) may leave quarantine after five days if they have no symptoms and provide a negative result from an FDA-authorized COVID-19 test— this includes over-the-counter-tests. Otherwise, the quarantine period ends 10 days after contact with the infected individual.

Whether they’re exempt from quarantining or not, anyone exposed to a coronavirus case should monitor for symptoms, upgrade to a surgical, KN95 or N95 mask and wear that mask at all times indoors and outdoors, except when eating or drinking.

Child Care Providers Need A Testing Plan

“ECE facilities are required to have a plan to facilitate COVID-19 response testing for persons who have an exposure at the ECE facility,” the guidance reads. “Staff and children who are tested must inform the ECE facility of the test results.”

The state plans to distribute over-the-counter coronavirus tests to providers at the end of the month. In the meantime, there are several options for testing, including free L.A. County sites and community- based sites with varying costs. Another L.A. County program allows you to pick up and drop off tests.

Where Can Parents And Providers Read More Details Of The Latest Safety Guidance For Child Care?

L.A. County’s Early Care & Education COVID-19 Toolkit (updated 1/11/2022)

What is it? The county’s public health guidance related to child care and early education.

Learn more: The county also conducts telebriefings for child care providers and early educators where they can learn about the latest guidance and ask questions. To learn more call 213-240-8144 or email

California Community Care Licensing Division Child Care Licensing Program Provider Information Notices (updated January 7, 2021)

What are they? Requirements and recommendations for licensed California child care providers. Not every provider information notice, sometimes known as a PIN, is related to COVID-19. You can also sign up to have the notices emailed to you directly.

California Division of Occupational Safety and Health COVID-19 Guidance and Resources

What are they? Regulations from the state agency meant to protect workers in a variety of industries. Topics include ventilation, vaccines, training and testing.

Child Care Heroes

What is it? A website created by L.A. County agencies along with LAUSD and local child care organizations called the Early Childhood Education COVID-19 Response Team. It breaks down the official guidance from the county and offers tips and examples from other providers. There’s also advice for parents and caregivers of young children.

Learn more: The response team also holds periodic webinars with updates. The next one is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. You can email for information on how to register.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs (Updated November 10, 2021)

What is it? Guidance from the national public health agency of the U.S.

What questions do you have about early childhood education and development? What do you want to know about kids ages 0-5 and those who care for them in Southern California?
Decades of research indicates early childhood education significantly boosts children’s readiness to learn. Mariana Dale wants families, caregivers and educators to have the information they need to help children 0-5 grow and thrive by identifying what’s working and what’s not in California’s early childhood system.

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