I want to start out by commending you for diligence and for the hard work - blood, sweat, and tears - you have put into your programs since the start of the pandemic. You all are shouldering a heavy burden trying to figure out how to keep everyone safe and healthy, how to survive financially, how to safely staff your programs, and how to mentally survive this new life we are all living.
Your day to day may look different now but your intentions and hearts are still in the same place: committed to providing a safe, healthy, loving, educational, and quality child care environment for children. Thank you for all that you do for the children, families, and staff in your programs! You are my idols and heroes!
Whether you never closed your doors, or closed and are now reopening, welcoming the children and staff back into a program looks very different. As a reminder, below is what you will need to have in place in order to re-open safety:
First, you will need to have your NYS Forward Safety Plan completed and posted in your program: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYS_BusinessReopeningSafetyPlanTemplate.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0-ccsUuOmhCm9UlQNtdz8ufxdPtQFXzKUpSiSzf9Ie9vv4hZumc-BUlyI
Next, make sure you have temporary policies and procedures that address COVID-19 and how your program will operate during the pandemic. OCFS has not changed the Health Care Plan to address COVID-19 in regards to exclusion criteria, new forms, or daily health checks. We are all hoping this is a temporary situation, whichi is why you are asked to have temporary policies and procedures to incorporate into your handbook or program contract.
OCFS has also not made changes to the regulations due to this mindset. The only change made was an emergency regulation that speaks to programs: “...must operate in compliance with all emergency health guidance promulgated by the Department of Health in the interest of public health during a designated public health emergency. Provided that, during a designated public health emergency, any relevant emergency directives from the executive chamber or from the Department of Health shall supersede regulations of the Office in the case of any conflict.”
Executive orders come from the office of the NYS Governor and this would be the mandate of staff wearing masks while in the program. Children who are in child care are NOT mandated to wear masks. NYSDOH set guidance for child care programs and camps and these are the mandates that all programs must follow.
When you are writing your policies and procedures, please refer to the NYSDOH Interim Guidance document: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/news/2020/COVID-2020Jun26-Day-Camp-Detailed-Guidelines.pdf. and summary document: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/news/2020/COVID-2020Jun26-Day-Camp-Summary.pdf.
Within these documents, you will see there are training mandates for staff. Staff will need to be trained on how to put on, take off, clean (as applicable), and discard PPE. They also will need to be trained on applicable precautions/ policies in the State’s guidance either remotely or in person, using appropriate social distancing and requiring face coverings for all participants. I have put a training together which has been approved for OCFS training credit which is being offering via Zoom. In this training, the NYSDOH mandates are covered and your policies and procedures are incorporated into the training so staff are doubly trained on all mandates set forth in your program. PPE procedures, cleaning/disinfecting, and hand washing/ hand sanitizing are also covered. Please contact me if you are interested in this training: firstname.lastname@example.org | 845-425-0009 x493.
Providing support to child care providers is integral to the mission of our agency. Please remember that we are here for you and happy to field your questions or concerns. If at any time this rings true, it is now. Please stay safe and healthy, both mentally and physically, while you continue to carry out your mission and vision as child care providers.