Preschools and child care centers around the state will soon be required to have all children 3 years and older weak masks. The new regulations require child care programs and camps to create a written policy for mask-wearing.
The Office of Early Childhood Development says it has worked with the state’s Department of Education to come up with these protocols based on new data.
“There was a study that showed that young children could carry a heavy viral load of COVID,” said Office of Early Childhood Development Commissioner Beth Bye.
Bye says leading health authorities suggested a higher degree of precaution.
“The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendations in mid-August that masks should be worn by children ages 2 and up,” she said.
While masks won’t be required at 2 years old, they will be required of all children 3 and older. A regulation, some childcare operators say they’ve been expecting.
“I wasn’t surprised. We kind of knew it’s been coming,” said Jill Marini, director of early learning at YWCA of Hartford.
Marini says the YWCA has watched the data and has been preparing accordingly.
“This virus has changed course and our research shows us that now maybe it’s appropriate for children to be wearing masks,” she said.
Last week, the Naugatuck YMCA Child Center was notified by a parent that a preschooler enrolled there tested positive for COVID-19. All children in that child’s cohort as well as the preschooler's siblings and group teachers were directed to stay home for at least 14 days before returning. They know first-hand how important safety protocols are and support the new regulations.
“We are seeing a little bit of that uptick plus with the schools open, it’s something that I think that they had to do in order to be safe moving forward,” said Naugatuck YMCA Children’s Center CEO Mark LaFortune.
One curiosity people have though is how the children will react. Child care professionals who spoke with NBC Connecticut say it might not be as big a deal as one might expect.
“I think that people are underestimating children,” said Marini. “Children are resilient.”
Marini says masks are becoming “normal” for children.
“Everywhere they go somebody’s wearing a mask and somebody’s explained to them why they’re wearing a mask,” she said.
Under the state’s guidelines, students will not be required to wear masks while eating, drinking or at recess but during those times must maintain six feet distance.
There will also be exceptions. A child with a documented medical condition, special health care needs, or developmental need will not be required to wear a mask.