Supporting Child Care and Early Years during COVID-19

⚠ If you have come in contact with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) complete this self-isolation determination tool to find out if you need to self-isolate. Looking for guidance? Visit our isolation instructions for COVID-19 web page.

Last revised on June 7, 2022

On this page:

New: Memo to Child Care and Early Years Providers Regarding Increase in Gastrointestinal Illness (pdf - 133 KB) This document is currently not in an accessible format. An accessible document will be posted shortly.

Overview:

This web page has been created to provide easily accessible information and guidance to support child care and early years program operators in transitioning to mitigation and symptom-based management of COVID-19. 

Keeping COVID-19 transmission low in the community is important to help prevent the introduction of the virus into child care. The primary goal is to make both schools and child care as safe as possible. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, Ottawa Public Health (OPH), child care providers, parents/caregivers and children each have a role to play in keeping child care as safe as possible. 

OPH will continue to monitor the situation in child care providers, evaluate and share new information as it becomes available. We will communicate COVID-19 updates to you in a number of ways, such as on our website, through social media and messages through the child care providers.  OPH will continue to support Providers via the OPH information line (613-580-6744) as well as the Outbreak Reporting Line if questions arise regarding case management and/or outbreaks. 

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Updates to provincial guidance for child care and early years

In response to the evolving situation related to the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern, the Ministry of Health has provided interim guidance for testing, case, contact and outbreak management. The guidance specifies follow up by public health for the highest risk settings only. The province has not categorized child carea highest risk setting.

Any dismissals or closures of a child care facility will depend on operational requirements determined by the child care operator. The responsibility for identifying and notifying contacts falls to the individual who has received a positive test result or has symptoms (or their parents/caregivers).     

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COVID-19 Screening tool for school or child care

The purpose of the provincial screening tool is to help parents and caregivers make decisions about whether their child can attend school/child care, to be used along with monitoring for symptoms and staying home when sick. The provincial screening tool can be completed daily before attending school/child care for each individual entering a school and/or child care. No personal information is requested when completing this tool, which means that you and/or your child cannot be personally identified or linked to your responses. It is recommended that you contact a healthcare provider if you have more questions about your child’s health.

COVID-19 Screening tool for school or child care

You can also download the COVID-19 screening tool (available in English and French)

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COVID-19 symptoms

In response to the evolving situation related to the COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern, people with symptoms of COVID-19 can be presumed to be infected with COVID-19 and must self-isolate as soon as possible to prevent transmission in the community .

See the OPH Self-Isolation Flowchart to help find out how long you or your child need to isolate : You have symptoms and are concerned you may have COVID-19 (pdf - 452 KB).


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Self-isolation requirements 

The Ministry of Health has updated guidelines for self-isolation. Please visit: What to do if you or your child has symptoms, has tested positive or for high risk contacts. 

Determining the self-isolation period:

To calculate your self-isolation period, consider day 0 of your isolation as either: 

  • Symptom onset date 
    • For example: if you began having COVID-19 symptoms on April 18, April 18 is day 0 and you must isolate until April 23 at 11h59pm.
  • Testing date
    • For example: if you do not have symptoms but test positive for COVID-19 and were tested on July 15, July 15 is day 0 and you must isolate until July 20 at 11h59pm. 

For a total of 10 days (or 20 days if you are immunocompromised) after the start of symptoms (or date of positive test result, whichever is earlier), you must: 

  • Continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings. 

  • Wear a mask as much as possible in public settings (including school and child care, unless under 2 years old (24 months)). Exceptions would include removing the mask temporarily for essential activities like eating (e.g., when eating in shared space at school/work while maintaining as much distance from others as possible).  

  • Participation in activities where a mask is worn may be resumed, but you should avoid activities where removing the mask would be necessary (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn). 

  • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age (24 months), etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask 

  • Not visit anyone who is immunocompromised or at higher risk of illness (i.e., seniors) 

  • Not visit or attend work in any highest risk settings**. 

  • Employees working in highest-risk settings** should report their exposure and follow their workplace guidance on return to work. 

Prior to attending child care, including returning to child care following an isolation period, you are encouraged to complete the provincial screening tool and follow the instructions provided by the tool. 

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Testing

The Ontario Ministry of Health provides Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT's) to child care settings for use by people who have COVID-19 symptoms.  

With the current high transmission of COVID-19 in the community, the current guidance from the Ministry of Health asks that all individuals who receive a positive test result (PCR, rapid molecular, or rapid antigen test), OR who are presumed positive, should notify close contacts of their exposure themselves. 

We recognize that when the individual who tested positive is a young child, they may be unable to identify contacts themselves and their parents or caregivers may not be aware of what contacts may be occurring in child care settings. We also recognize that while the child care sector has done a phenomenal job adapting their practices to decrease transmission wherever possible, there could be children identified as having had close interactions with an individual who tested positive.

See the Frequently Asked Questions about Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for more information including what to do when you receive a negative or positive test result.  

Rapid antigen testing (RAT) take-home testing kits 

There have been changes to the testing strategy in Ottawa. The province will be shifting to be able to provide Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT's) for all students and staff, as announced on January 12, 2022. 

Child care providers with questions about RAT take home testing kit distribution can contact City of Ottawa - Children’s Services.  

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Roles

 Ottawa Public Health’s role
 

In accordance with provincial standards and guidance, OPH:

  • Manages follow up for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and outbreaks of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
  • Supports local child care providers in following compliance to provincial guidance and regulations.
  • Communicates any local recommendations to child care providers on prevention of transmission for COVID-19

For information concerning public health inspections and outbreak management, visit the Outbreaks in Child Care Centers web page.

 Child Care Provider’s role
  • Ensures accurate records and up-to-date contact information for staff and children that can be accessed in a timely manner for investigations and communications.
  • Facilitates training of staff with respect to outbreak prevention and control measures and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Support vaccination opportunities for child care providers, children and families.
 Role of parents and caregivers
  • Using the screening tool, screen every individual entering the child care facility in your care every morning, even on weekends. The tool will help you decide whether you or your child should attend/enter child care or start isolating. Screening is important, even if you or your child is up to date and received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including any booster dose(s). 
  • Keep your child(ren) and all other household members at home if they are ill. 
  • Call the child care as soon as possible if your child:
    • Will not be attending child care, Has COVID-19 one or more symptom(s) and will not be attending child care,
    • Tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating, or 
    • Is self-isolating because they are a close contact of a person with COVID-19.
  • Provide the child care with up-to-date contact information for each parent or caregiver and emergency contacts.
  • Inform the child care of any medical conditions your child(ren) may have (provide appropriate documents as needed).
  • Ensure your child’s immunizations are up to date.
  • Have a plan in place in the event your child cannot attend child care for an extended period or is required to go home during the day.
  • Read all communications from your child care provider and OPH and check the Supporting Child Care and Early Years during COVID-19 web page regularly. 
  • Contact the Ottawa Public Health Information Centre (OPHIC) at (613) 580-6744 if you have any questions about any message received from OPH.

Please note: Parents and caregivers do NOT need to call OPH to inform them that a child has COVID-like symptoms. 

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EarlyON 

EarlyON Child and Family Centers are offering programming in various formats, including indoors, outdoors and/or virtual.  Before attending an EarlyON location, please be sure to check with the program to ensure it is still running, and in what format.  

Ottawa Public Health wishes to remind providers, as well as the general public, that any increase in the number of contacts within a group also increases the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission. 

For general information on the EarlyON program, please visit the City of Ottawa’s Early Years web page.

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Information for parents and caregivers of children attending child care and early years services

Here are some important key messages for parents and caregivers to review with their child before attending child care and early years programs:

  • Stay at home when you are sick, even when symptoms are mild. Staying home helps prevent transmitting an illness to others.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm, not your hands! Throw the tissue away and wash your hands right away.
  • If you don’t feel well, tell someone.
  • People who are exempt from masking (e.g., children under two years of age (24 months), etc.) may return to public settings without wearing a mask (i.e. after illness, after returning from travel) 
  • Avoid touching your face. We can easily spread germs from our hands to our mask or face.
  • Bring your own water bottle from home to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • Reach out for help if you need it. It’s ok NOT to be ok. Check out some of our Mental wellness supports.
  • Make sure your immunizations are all up to date.

Notice of Risk for child care and early years

With the increased spread of Omicron, there is a risk in any setting for transmission of the virus. We do expect there could be some transmission when children from different families attend the same child care and/or EarlyON Centre to participate in programming.  

Children with COVID-19 are more likely than adults to exhibit very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, but can still transmit the virus to others. This means that children can bring home a virus acquired at a child care and/or EarlyON program.  

Screening, hand hygiene and staying home when ill are some of the many measures that help make child care and early years services healthier spaces and that help reduce the risk of transmission. 

Each individual needs to assess their own personal risks for severe disease balanced with the benefits of the activity in question when deciding what is best for them and their family. 

NEW- Identification and notification of close contacts at child care

As a parent, guardian or caregiver, when your child tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19, you are responsible to inform your child's close contacts. If your child cannot identify their close contacts, you can contact your child care provider to help you. 

When determining who is a close contact, it is important to note that public health measures help reduce the risk of transmission

For more information on what is considered a close contact, please visit Information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts. 

If a child care provider is made aware of someone testing positive for COVID-19 or presumed to have  COVID-19, they may notify specific individuals who could be considered close contactbased on the interactions that they are aware of and the safety measures in place within their setting.

Important public health measures in child care 

The Province announced the next steps to ease public health measures starting on March 21, 2022. These next steps indicate that masking, physical distancing, cohorting and daily on-site confirmation of screening will no longer be required in child care. Although these measures may no longer be required, we encourage parents, guardians, and caregivers to continue with the layers of protection that make them feel at ease and which can continue to decrease COVID-19 transmission, including masking. It is important to show respect for others and their individual choices, based on their own assessment of their risk – or the risk to a loved one. 

Here are some important things we can continue to do to reduce the transmission and take care of our health:    

Hand Hygiene

Wash Your Hands the Right Way - Video Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. Children need to be taught when and how to wash their hands properly. It is important for everyone to wash their hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.

Masks

Masking has been an important part of a layered approach to limit transmission of COVID-19 in child care and in the community at large. Masks can help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and add a layer of protection to prevent COVID-19 transmission.  It is important for each individual to assess their own risk level, and the risk of those they live and interact with. Individuals and their families must choose how to, rather than be mandated, to best protect themselves. This will include the decision to wear a mask in indoor, outdoor and/or shared spaces.  

Please note that masks will continue to be required in the following situations:  

  • Return from international travel 
    • A reminder that under current federal travel requirements, upon return from international travel, individuals that are exempt from quarantine, AND that are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (including schools and child care, unless under 2 years old (24 months)), for their first 14 days in Canada.  Fully vaccinated returning international travelers are no longer required to mask in public settings for 14 days after arrival to Canada.
    • Important: The travel guidelines are set by the federal government and are continuously changing. Please check for current federal information at the link above and direct any questions to the federal COVID-19 information line at 1-833-784-4391 or phac.covid19.aspc@canada.ca
  • Post COVID-19 infection 
    • If self-isolation is complete after 5 days, wearing a well-fitted mask in all public settings (including schools and child care, (unless under 2 years old (24 months)) is required for an additional 5 days. 
  • Asymptomatic close contacts 
    • If self-isolation is required for 5 days, close contacts coming off isolation must continue to wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings, including schools, for an additional 5 days (unless under 2 years old (24 months).
    • If self-isolation is not required, the close contacts must self monitor and wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings, including schools, for 10 days (unless under 2 years old (24 months).

For more information about isolation requirements and masking, visit: Information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and high-risk contacts.

For more information on different types of masks, how to improve the fit of your mask, FAQs, visit our Masks webpage. 

Monitoring for symptoms and staying home when sick 

Families are encouraged to continue daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms for all household members and stay home when sick. For information for those who have symptoms, test positive for COVID-19 and close contacts visit our webpage. 

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Mental Health Resources
Child Care Providers Children

Please know that help is available, and OPH encourages you to reach out for support when you need it.

Take Care of Your Mental Health - Video

Take care of yourself. It’s ok to NOT be ok. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out for support when you need it.

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Other supports

As the pandemic continues, we are aware that many families continue to struggle. This has not been easy. You are not alone. Please reach out if you need help.

Useful links and resources:

As we learn to live with COVID-19, we must recognize that all of us have a role to play when it comes to reducing the spread of the virus.

Contact information

Provincial Vaccine Information Line

  • 7 days a week, from 8 am to 8 pm
  • Call if you have questions about Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • Service is available in multiple languages.
  • Telephone: 1-888-999-6488
  • TTY: 1-866-797-0007

Ottawa Public Health Vaccine Booking Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-691-5505

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Telephone Line

  • Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
  • Translation is available in multiple languages
  • Telephone: 613-580-6744 follow the prompts to the COVID-19 telephone line
  • TTY: 613-580-9656

Emergency Services

  • If you are in distress (e.g., significant trouble breathing, chest pain, fainting or have a significant worsening of any chronic disease symptoms), do not go to the Assessment Centre or a COVID-19 Care clinic. Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911.

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 211

Related information

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