coronavirus in daycares

Quarantine Time Cut in Half for 3- and 4-Year-Olds

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Ashley Mendoza, of Hamden, said her sons spent more time at home than in daycare last December thanks to quarantine guidelines.

“One or both children have been home in quarantine for about 75% of the time. So really for the full month of December,” said Mendoza.

Since November, her inbox has been filled with notices from her daycare provider, requiring one or both of her children to isolate due to a possible COVID-19 exposure in their classroom. 

“Today is actually the second day that both children have been in daycare since January 4th,” said Mendoza on Jan. 20.

The Office of Early Childhood recently updated its quarantine guidance for those three or older to fall in line with the CDC’s recommendations that came out at the end of December.

“Preschool children who can reliably wear masks, the quarantine went from 10 days down to five days, for children who can’t wear masks, it remains 10 days,” said Commissioner Beth Bye.

However, the guidance is simply a recommendation, left up to interpretation by local health departments which are in some cases sticking with the 10-day rule for all children under five.

“A lot of parents are getting very upset. Staff members are getting very upset,” said Christopher Russo, the co-owner of My Little Rascals Too in Southington. “They want to proceed with the easier of the two guidelines, but with our situation, we have to follow the guidance of both departments because we can be shut down by either one of them.”

Ultimately, it’s up to the childcare center to make the rules for their business, as long as they’re as strict as state and local guidelines.

“They’re very strong recommendations. Programs and schools need to meet regulations that they’re protecting children’s health and safety,” said Bye.

Mendoza said she believes her daycare in Hamden is doing a great job under difficult circumstances, but wishes the efforts to keep her kids safe could be more coordinated.

“Why are these different bodies setting different quarantine durations? It’s frustrating that there can’t be consensus on what’s safe,” she said. “You do whatever it takes to keep your children safe. It’s difficult to balance that need for safety with the need to work and the need to provide for your family.”

One local health director told NBC Connecticut he’s begged the state to make these recommendations requirements so that health departments aren’t left to interpret them.

“A pandemic by its very name is not ordered. It’s not all clear. And so, you don’t want to put in hard rules that then don’t apply in many cases,” cautioned Bye, who said she often tells providers to contact their local health departments so that they can interpret the guidelines on a case-by-case basis.

Mendoza said she often waits until after her children go to bed to finish her work, catching only four hours of sleep.

“Everyone just wants to move forward and it makes me feel like the demographic of parents who have children on the age of five, it makes me feel like we’re being left behind,” added Mendoza. “Some parents can’t work remotely and then what do you do? You’re not going to bring in a grandparent if you kid was exposed to COVID.”

Bye said she met with the Department of Public Health on Thursday to discuss including two-year-olds in that recommendation as well. Though everyone two and older are recommended to wear masks, many daycares don't require them until the age of three.

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