Supporting Child Care and Early Years

Automated translation by Google akhbaar somali kuqoran
المعلومات المكتوبة باللغة العربية

An illustration of two people wearing masks. On their left is written who can currently get the COVID-19? Vaccine? A button containing the word learn more.

Last revised on February 3, 2021

On this page:


We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused difficult times and the decision to send your child(ren) to child care is not easy. Each family should assess their own individual situation especially if your child(ren), family and household members are at higher risk for serious outcomes due to the COVID-19 virus. You may also want to consider your child’s health condition, their needs, and your family’s ability to find alternative child care. Each family should choose what is best for them.

Keeping COVID-19 transmission low in the community is important to help prevent the introduction of the virus into both schools and child care. The primary goal is to make child care as safe as possible. Parents, OPH and child care providers each have a role to play in keeping children as safe as possible.

Child Care Guidance 

In an effort to support the Ottawa childcare sector during the pandemic, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) had been developing and updating local adaptations of the Ministry of Education’s guidance as new Provincial information/directions were released. As OPH understands that waiting for updates to local guidance can cause delays in Childcare Providers’ abilities to make the necessary modifications to their plans and protocols, the Provincial guidance will now provide the direction for Providers here in Ottawa. 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.

COVID-19 Screening Tool for School or Child Care

The purpose of this screening tool is to help parents and guardians make decisions about whether their child can attend school/child care. This screening tool should be completed daily before attending school/child care for each individual child separately. 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. Using this tool is voluntary. It is recommended that you contact a healthcare provider if you have more questions about your child’s health. This tool is subject to change as further guidance from the Ministry of Health and evidence related to COVID-19 risks becomes available.

COVID-19 Screening Tool for School or Child Care

العربية (Arabic pdf - 307 KB): أداة فحص كوفی د- 19 للمدارس وروضات الأطفال

COVID-19 symptoms in children
When assessing for symptoms, focus on whether they are new, worsening, or different from your child’s baseline health status or usual state. Symptoms associated with known chronic health conditions or related to other known causes/conditions should not be considered unless new, different or worsening. 

This chart does not replace the need to complete screening each day before school or child care. The screening tool acts as a decision guide to support parents and guardians to assess whether or not their child can attend school or child care. Please complete daily for each child separately.

Type Symptoms
  • Symptoms most commonly association with COVID-19 infection
  • Children with one of the listed symptoms, should stay home, isolate and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible
  • Fever (temperature 37.8 C/100 F or higher)
  • Chills
  • Cough (more than usual if chronic cough) including croup (barking cough, making a whistling noise when breathing) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, asthma, reactive airway)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea, out of breath, unable to breath deeply, wheeze, that is worse than usual if chronically short of breath) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, asthma)
  • Decrease or loss of smell or taste (new olfactory or taste disorder) not related to other knows causes or conditions (for example, nasal polyps, allergies, neurological disorders)
  • Symptoms that could be associated with COVID-19 infection as well as other illnesses
  • Children with one of the listed symptoms, should stay home, isolate and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible
  • Sore throat (painful swallowing or difficulty swallowing) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, post nasal drip, gastroesophageal (acid) reflux);
  • Stuffy nose and/or runny nose (nasal congestion and/or rhinorrhea) not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, seasonal allergies, returning inside from the cold, chronic sinusitis unchanged from baseline, reactive airways)
  • Headache that is new or persistent, unusual, unexplained, or long-lasting not related to known causes or conditions (for example, tension-type headache, chronic migraines)
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, not related to other known causes or conditions (transient vomiting due to anxiety in children, chronic vestibular dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, side effect of medication)
  • Fatigue, lethargy, muscle aches or malaise (general feeling of being unwell, lack of energy, extreme tiredness, poor feeding in infants) that is unusual or unexplained, not related to other known causes or conditions (for example, depression, insomnia, thyroid disfunction, anemia)

Important: COVID-19 Testing for Children

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and the Ministry of Health are currently advising that individuals, including young children, who are showing even ONE symptom of COVID-19 should be tested. A more cautious approach has been adopted in response to the new variants of the COVID-19 virus that have been identified within Ontario. The new COVID-19 variants transmit more easily, therefore additional precautions are needed to prevent the spread within the community.  As well, testing centres have recently recorded a decrease in the number of children being tested. It is important to remember that a driving factor in keeping our community, child care and schools open is to lower COVID-19 rates in the community, which requires that individuals seek testing if symptomatic and self-isolate if they (or a household member) have symptoms. OPH will continue to assess the local situation closely through our Daily COVID Dashboard and will update testing guidance and protocols, as needed. It would also be important to note that symptomatic children must be excluded for 10 days if they are not tested.

Child testing and self isolating flowcharts (pdf - 396 KB)

Process when a person tests positive for COVID-19

Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) goal is to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and to keep children and child care staff safe. If someone tests positive for COVID-19 in a child care setting, OPH will work in collaboration with the child care to reduce the risk of COVID-19 by implementing some or all of the following measures:

  • Communicating regularly with the child care
  • Reviewing and confirming important practices to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 including:
    • Screening children and staff for exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19
    • Staying home when sick
    • Cohorting (grouping and separation) children and staff
    • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
    • Using personal protective equipment when appropriate (e.g., masking)
    • Ensuring proper hand hygiene
    • Posting signage of appropriate public health measures (e.g., hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene)
    • Maintaining physical distancing
  • Doing a site visit for licensed child care centres and provide further advice, when indicated.
  • Providing recommendations on testing, as per provincial guidelines
  • Assessing whether child care operations can continue and if any additional measures are needed
  • Identifying people who may have been in contact with the person(s) who tested positive for COVID-19
  • Contacting those affected directly to provide guidance
  • If child care operations were interrupted as part of outbreak management, determining when operations can safely resume
  • Helping the child care ensure important practices remain in place long term

Decision Tool for Symptomatic Child in Child Care (pdf - 3 MB)

Decision Tool for Symptomatic Provider at Child Care (pdf - 2 MB)


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 cases and outbreaks

Child Care Provider’s Role

  • Develops and implements reopening plans following guidelines and recommendations from the Ministry of Education and Ottawa Public Health.
  • Communicates with families about COVID-19 prevention measures and how those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and outbreaks will be supported.
  • Ensures accurate records of staff and children’s attendance, as well up-to-date contact information for staff and students 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).

Role of Parent(s)/ Guardian(s):

  • Using the screening tool, screen every child in your care every morning. The tool will help you decide whether your child should go to child care that day.
  • Have your child tested for COVID-19 based on recommendations of screening tool, health care provider or Ottawa Public Health (OPH)
  • Keep your child(dren) home while waiting for COVID-19 test results and/ or if they are a high-risk contact of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. All household members must also self-isolate while waiting for test results if child has symptoms.
  • Call the child care as soon as possible if your child:
    • Has COVID-19 like symptoms and will not be attending child care,
    • Tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating, or
    • Is self-isolating because they are a high risk contact of someone who has tested positive
  • Provide the child care with up-to-date contact information for each parent or guardian 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
  • 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/guardians do NOT need to call OPH to inform them that a child is sick, has COVID-like symptoms, or has a negative COVID result. OPH will contact parents as needed.

Notice of Risk for Child Care and Early Years
When children from different families attend the same child care centre/home child care/EarlyON center to participate in programming, there is an increased risk of the COVID-19 virus being transmitted. Children who are infected with the COVID-19 virus are more likely than adults to develop very mild infections or to exhibit no symptoms at all, but these children can still transmit the infection to other children and adults. This means that children can bring home an infection acquired at a child care centre/home child care/EarlyON program and put other persons at risk. All such organizations have a screening process to help detect an infection in a person who shows symptoms; however, this process will not detect an infection in children or adults who do not have symptoms at the time of screening.

The risk of serious COVID-19 infection increases with age―especially after age 50. Older staff and family members should consider their personal risk when making decisions related to child care and remain COVIDWise.

Frequently asked questions


How will child care settings be informed if a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

OPH will contact the child care setting as soon as OPH is made aware of a positive lab result to begin an investigation.

If the positive lab result is received by OPH after operating hours, OPH will reach out to the child care setting the following day. The priority is always to ensure that any child or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 does not attend child care the following day.

It is possible that a person who tests positive for COVID-19 receives their results on the online portal before being contacted by OPH. The child care setting should be contacted immediately by parents/guardians or child care setting staff member.

Will Ottawa Public Health contact me if my child receives a positive COVID-19 test result? 

Yes. When a child tests positive for COVID-19, parents/guardians will receive information from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) through an email, a letter or an automated message to notify them that their child has received a positive test result. An OPH staff will be assigned to work with the parent/guardian of the child to provide follow-up details. 

Long-term care staff have been required to go for regular testing. Why aren’t child care providers asked to do the same?  

The provincial Ministry of Long-Term Care has established this requirement for long-term care home settings. The Ministry of Education has not implemented such requirements for child care settings at this time. 

Will Ottawa Public Health notify me if an individual at my child’s child care service develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19? 

Yes. The Ministry of Education guidelines state parents/guardians of other children attending the same home child care service, must be informed that a child developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and that this child was sent home, recommended for testing, and is to stay home while waiting for their test results. All parents/guardians are to monitor their child(ren) for any symptoms as well.  Parents/guardians will receive information from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) through an email, a letter or an automated message to notify them 

Symptoms/sick child

A young child with gastro-like symptoms was sent home, and the family decided not to get tested. Do the child and household members still need to isolate for 14 days?

No, not for 14 days. Children who are experiencing one or more symptoms should stay or be sent home for at least 24 hours. For vomiting and diarrhea, OPH recommends a child not return to school/child care until 48 hours after symptoms have gone away. A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return. Household contacts would have to self-isolate for the same period of time.

Does a child with a new onset symptom need to be tested again if they were tested the previous week and obtain a negative lab result? 

Yes, a negative COVID-19 test indicates that an individual did not have detectable virus at the time the test was performed. It does not speak to whether an individual was exposed to the virus before the test (and was in the very early stage of infection), or whether a person was exposed to the virus after the test was performed. A negative test can therefore not predict an individual’s likelihood of being infectious the following week.

Is fever still considered a symptom of COVID-19, as temperature check was removed from the Provincial guidance for Child Care providers?

Yes. Fever is still on the list of symptoms for COVID-19. Report to the Ministry of Education when a child, parent, home child care provider, home child care visitor or a home occupant is suspected of having COVID-19 (i.e., has one or more symptoms and has been tested, though results may be pending) or is a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Do all household contacts (e.g., siblings) need to isolate while waiting for test results for a child with symptoms consistent with COVID-19?  

Yes. Your child must remain in isolation while waiting for their COVID-19 test results and cannot attend child care/school. Likewise, siblings and other household contacts of children with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 who have gone for testing are also required to isolate while waiting for the child’s test results.

For more information on self-isolation instructions consult Tested, What Now?. 

Who can determine if a child’s symptoms have improved?

Parents/guardians are responsible for determining if their child’s symptoms have improved.  If you need health care on a non-urgent basis, please consult with your health care provider or call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000. 

OPH has developed and made available an Attestation for Return to School for Students Following Illness letter for families with children returning to school or child care following symptoms of illness, including supporting parents to confirm that there is a non-COVID-19 reason for the symptoms. 

Which self-screening tool should child care and EarlyON providers and essential visitors complete prior to entering a child care and/or EarlyON Centre?  

The COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Adult) should be completed daily by all staff and essential visitors prior to attending a child care and/or EarlyON Centre. 

Which self-screening tool should be completed by parents/guardians/caregivers prior to entering a child care and/or EarlyON Centre? 

The COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Adult) should be completed daily by all parents/guardians/caregivers prior to attending a child care and/or EarlyON Centre.  

Which screening tool should be completed for children prior to entering a child care and/or EarlyON Centre? 

The COVID-19 Screening Tool for School or Child Care (child) should be completed daily for each child, prior to attending a child care and/or EarlyON Centre. 

Who needs to complete a daily screening prior to entering a child care and/or EarlyON Centre? 

All individuals, including parents/guardians/caregivers, children, staff/providers and essential visitors, entering the facility must self-screen every day before arrival at the child care and/or EarlyON Centre. 


How fast is OPH able to investigate the possible transmission of COVID-19 to others in a child care centre following a positive test result?
OPH initiates the investigation as soon as possible. OPH contacts the child care centre to ensure notification and collect information on close contacts of the person who tested positive for COVID-19. Information needed can include group and staff lists and transportation lists. OPH works with the child care providers, staff members, and the parent/guardian of the child who received a positive test result for COVID-19, to find out where the individual may have acquired the infection. The information is used to determine which children and/or staff are high-risk contacts. 


Where does OPH report child care outbreaks?

Confirmed child care outbreaks are reported in OPH's Daily COVID-19 Dashboard. The Dashboard is updated daily at 12:30 pm.

Can a home child care remain open when a person living in the home (i.e., a household member) develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19?

No. Home-based child care centres need to close if a person living in the home develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Refer to Child Care Operational Guidance for further instructions on when a home child care can re-open in this situation. 

If a child develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while attending a home child care or child care service, can the child care service still operate? 

No. When an outbreak of COVID-19 is suspected in a child care service, the child care service must report the situation to OPH. OPH will assess each situation and provide the child care provider further information on the requirements regarding operation or closures of cohorts/groups.

For more information on what happens when a child  develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19  while at child care, consult the Decision Tool for When a Symptomatic Child Falls Ill While At Child Care. 


What if my child loses their mask or doesn’t have one for child care?

Parents should try to ensure their child is provided with 2 clean masks each day.
Parents/guardians are responsible for providing their child(ren) with a non-medical mask(s) or face covering each day. Parents are responsible to provide a way to store masks while not in use for their child(ren).

All children in grade 1 and above are required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering while inside a child care setting, including in hallways. All younger children (aged 2 to SK) are encouraged but not required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering while inside a child care setting, including in hallways. Masks are not recommended for children under the age of two.

What if an employee is allergic to medical mask provided?
If an employee is allergic or has a skin sensitivity to a particular model of medical mask that has been provided, the employer has a responsibility to offer a second type of medical mask. Because of uncertain filtering effectiveness, a cloth mask is not a suitable alternative in the occupational context. Cloth masks too could produce an allergic or sensitivity reaction from their dyes or detergents used on them. If wearing a medical mask is a continuing problem, we recommend that the employee see a health care provider for further assessment.
Are parents obligated to wear masks when dropping off a child outside at child care centres?

No. Personal protective equipment requirements in the child care guidance, only pertain to situations where adults are inside the child care premise. OPH recommends wearing a mask whenever physical distancing from members outside your household cannot be maintained.

Are staff allowed to wear cloth masks rather than the mandatory medical masks?
As these requirements are set by the Ministry of Education in their Operational Guidance During COVID-19 Outbreak – Child Care Reopening, we recommend directing any inquiries requesting clarifications specific to personal protective equipment (PPE) to  
Do children in grade 1 and up who attend school during the day need to wear a mask while at the home child care centre (before and after school, PD days and holidays)?
Yes, all children in grade 1 and above are required to wear a non-medical or cloth mask while inside the child care premises, including in hallways.
Are the children at a home child care service required to wear masks when the child care is operating?

Yes, all children attending the child care service (whether they are the provider’s children or not) are included in the masking requirements. If the children are in the home but not attending the child care service, they are to be considered residents in the guidance.
Refer to Tip Sheet for Licensed Home Child Care Using Medical Masks, Eye Protection and Face Coverings (non-medical or cloth masks) provided by the Ministry of Education.

We found alternative PPE (such as a mask/shield, masks with plastic window). Can we access these through Ottawa Public Health and/or the Ministry of Education?
The PPE requirements are set by the Ministry of Education in their Operational Guidance During COVID-19 Outbreak – Child Care Reopening and therefore, we recommend directing any inquiries requesting clarifications specific to personal protective equipment (PPE) to
A child, in grade 1 or above, is at home during the day but attends home child care in the evening. Is this child required to wear a mask while at the home child care premise?
All children in grade 1 and above are required to wear a non-medical or cloth mask while inside the child care premises, including in hallways. Reasonable exceptions to the indoor mandatory mask requirement are expected to be put in place by the child care provider. Exceptions to wearing masks indoors may include situations where a child cannot tolerate wearing a mask safely, reasonable exemptions for medical conditions, child is sleeping, etc.
Does the protective equipment need to be worn by staff and children while outside?
Masks are required outdoors for adults and children (grade 1 and above) when physical distancing of a least 2 metres cannot be maintained between individuals. All younger children (aged 2 to SK) are also encouraged to do this, but it is not required. In shared outdoor spaces, cohorts must maintain a distance of at least 2 metres between groups and any other individuals outside of the cohort.


OPH states several times in their guidance that smaller cohorts are recommended, however the Ministry of Education has directed licensed child care to return to licensed capacity. Are smaller cohorts still encouraged?
It is true that OPH wishes to remind child care providers, as well as the general public, that any increase in the number of contacts within a cohort also increases the risks associated with COVID-19 transmission and that local guidance will continue to recommend smaller cohorts. The Ministry of Education mentions that child care settings may return to maximum group sizes as set out under the CCEYA. Child care providers are to make the decision with all public health and provincial guidance in mind as to the group size their facility can accommodate.


Do gathering limits apply to workplaces, such as staff meetings?
The new limits currently do not apply to events or gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities because they must already follow specific public health and safety guidelines to minimize risk and limit the spread of COVID-19. People at their place of work, including performers and crews, do not count towards gathering limits. Staff meetings seem to be excluded from the description of gatherings, but safety guidelines still apply, such has physical distancing, hand hygiene and wearing a mask.
Some neighbouring public health units are not asking household contacts of an individual with symptoms to self-isolate. Will OPH be following suit?

OPH is recommending that household contacts (e.g., siblings, guardians, children) of the symptomatic child or staff / child care provider stay at home and self-isolate while waiting for the results of the symptomatic person’s COVID-19 test. High risk contacts of the symptomatic child or staff / child care provider who were at the centre in the previous two days (48 hours prior to when the symptomatic person’s symptoms started) should be monitored for symptoms and cohorted while waiting for results from the staff / child care provider / child.

In her special statement on September 18, Dr. Etches stated that if someone in your household becomes symptomatic, everyone in the household should self-isolate, but only the person with symptoms should be tested. Others in the household do not need to be tested unless they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been instructed to go for testing by OPH. However, they do need to stay home until the original test comes back negative.

More recently, on December 2, Dr. Etches issued a revised Class Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to replace the original order, which was invoked on September 22. The order stipulates that any person who tests positive for COVID-19, has signs and symptoms of COVID-19, been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting a test result or otherwise has reasonable grounds to believe they have one of more symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone who is a close contact of a person listed above must self-isolate without delay. These individuals must remain in isolation until the expiry of the required period, unless COVID-19 is ruled out, and they must do everything they can to avoid exposing other people to COVID-19. For more information on self-isolation periods or the Section 22 Order, please review the OPH Self-Isolation Instructions for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage. 

Can child care operators implement additional measures and precautions that go beyond those provided by the Ministry of Education?

Yes—within reason and legislation.  Child care operators may implement their own policies that would offer additional protection from COVID-19 transmission than what Ottawa Public Health or the Ministry of Education has recommended.  Child care operators are responsible for the administration and implications of any supplemental measures they choose to implement within their facility. 

Can child care services continue using rugs in their rooms? What precautions should be taken?

Yes, but it is recommended that rugs be removed where possible. If they cannot be removed, then they should be vacuumed daily and steam cleaned periodically. Typically, it is recommended that carpets and rugs are steam cleaned four times per year; however, Ottawa Public Health recommends increasing this frequency if you are able.  During an outbreak, it is recommended that carpets and rugs, where feasible, be rolled up and put away. 

Do child care providers need to maintain records of the daily screening? 

No. As per the Ministry of Education’s most recent update to the Operational Guidance During COVID-19 Outbreak – Child Care Reopening document, child care providers are no longer required to maintain records of the daily screening.  However, they must keep a record of attendance and contact information to facilitate contact tracing, if needed. 

Are there any resources I can access if I am concerned about my child’s mental health?

Are there any resources I can access if I am concerned about my child’s mental health? 

Does Ottawa Public Health (OPH) have any resources for those pregnant who have a child(ren) currently attending child care?

Yes. We recognize that many parents/guardians will be carefully considering what the best decisions are for their family. Our resources were developed with the understanding that these decisions are difficult for many parents/guardians, given so many variables and unknowns about the future.

For general information on pregnancy and breastfeeding during COVID-19, please refer to Resources for Those Pregnant and Parenting During COVID-19.

Every family situation is different, if you have further concerns or questions, please consult with your health care provider.

Are there any resources supporting the mental health of child care staff? 

Yes. Here are some tips on how you can support and protect your own mental health. 

What is the requirement for cleaning and disinfecting outdoor play structures in the winter? 

Cleaning and disinfection of outdoor play structures between each group is no longer required, as per the current child care Operational Guidance.  Ottawa Public Health is encouraging child care providers to focus their efforts on proper hand hygiene instead, as hand hygiene is one of the most effective measures in reducing surface transmission risk. 

For more information on hand hygiene for infants and young children, consult Hand hygiene for infants and young children.

For more information on cleaning and disinfecting, consult Environmental cleaning and disinfection in child care centres and schools. 

Is singing permitted inside while attending child care and EarlyON programs? 

No. OPH does not recommend group singing indoors. 

COVID-19 spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks. Infectious droplets or aerosols may come into direct contact with another person’s nose, mouth or eyes, or they may be inhaled into their nose, mouth, and lungs. Indoor singing with inadequate distancing and ventilation increases risk for transmission of the COVID-19 virus. 

Ottawa is experiencing ongoing COVID-19 transmission.  Ottawa Public Health recommends limiting social gatherings to those living in the same household and limiting activities that increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission such as singing. 

Is singing permitted outside while attending child care and EarlyON programs? 

No. OPH does not recommend group singing outdoors. 

Wind direction, wind speed, and the physical arrangement of the group are all considerations for COVID-19 transmission when singing in a group outdoors.  

OPH recommends encouraging activities that promote child language acquisition that follow the safety guidelines below: 

  • Virtual options instead of group gatherings. 

  • Consider using audio or video recordings instead of live singing or wind or brass instrumental music. 

  • Group singing is strongly discouraged. 

For reference, the Provincial Regulations for in-person teaching involving singing does not distinguish between indoor versus outdoor instructional spaces. 

What measures are in place within child care and early years centres to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission? 

There are multiple public health protective measures involved in limiting COVID-19 transmission in child care and early years settings. Some of these measures include; reducing cohort sizes, screening of children and staff to ensure people who are ill stay home, using masks and practicing physical distancing, adapting schedules, maintaining vigilance with hand hygiene, as well as responding rapidly to inform close contacts when someone tests positive for COVID-19 

For more information you can also consult the Notice of Risk for Child Care and Early Years.

What cleaning products and/or disinfectants does OPH recommend? 

Although Ottawa Public Health cannot recommend specific products or disinfectants, we encourage child care providers to follow existing guidelines and manufacturer’s instructions Health Canada provides a list of approved disinfectants that are effective against COVID-19. 

However, please note that spray products are not recommended due to the risk of inhalation (see Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development). Chemical sprays should be avoided and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn. 

For more information you can consult Infection Prevention and Control in Child Care. 


Where can I find general information concerning the EarlyON program? 

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

Why do I have to register in advance to attend an EarlyON program? 

Pre-registering for programs and services ahead of time is an important measure that helps to promote enhanced health and safety by:  

  • safely collecting information of participants for the purposes of contact tracing, if needed; 

  • promoting advanced screening of participants before entering/attending an EarlyON Centre; 

  • providing important communication to participants on enhanced health and safety measures in advance of attending in-person programs and services; 

  • enabling EarlyON Centres to maintain and manage group/space capacity; 

  • supporting safe and timely sign-ins and preventing crowding/waiting at entrances; and 

  • helping to organize programming options that support an enhanced level of health and safety (e.g., such as participants registering for multi-week programs). 

Can I still attend an EarlyON Centre if I do not have access to online registration? 
Yes, registration for an EarlyON program can be done online or over the phone. Find the Location Nearest You to register online or to obtain the specified centre number for phone registration. If you do not have access to these methods, inquire with your preferred location for alternative options. 
How are the EarlyON centres reducing the number of exposures? 
EarlyON centres  must limit group sizes to the specified limits provided by the Government of Ontario (e.g. according to the level of the public health region in the COVID-19 Response Framework). Grouping participants helps to reduce exposure to and transmission of COVID-19. 
What are some examples of how EarlyON providers are grouping participants? 

Below are some examples of how providers may group participants to limit the interaction amongst groups of participants to the greatest extent possible: 

  • encouraging participants to attend only one EarlyON location in person and accessing virtual programs on other days; 

  • scheduling dedicated time to provide 1:1 support for information and referrals;  

  • limiting registration within an EarlyON Centre so participants can attend in-person, once a week;  

  • offering registration for multi-week programs (e.g., all ages playgroup, where the program would be offered at, for example, 2 pm every Tuesday where the same group of participants participate every Tuesday); and 

  • offering registration for multi-day programs (e.g., toddler playgroup, where the program would be offered at 10 am from Monday – Friday where the same group of participants participate all week). 

How many participants can an EarlyON Centre have at once? 
EarlyON providers must limit group sizes to the specified limits provided by the Government of Ontario (e.g. according to the level of the public health region in the COVID-19 Response Framework). OPH wishes to remind EarlyON 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 and that smaller groups are preferred. 
Are EarlyON Centres allowed to return to regular group sizes? 

EarlyON providers are required to establish and have a policy addressing maximum space and group sizes. These size limits should include participants and staff, to reduce the transmission and spread of COVID-19. In determining these space and group sizes, EarlyON providers must consider:  

  • gathering limits specified by the Government of Ontario (e.g. according to the level of the public health region in the COVID-19 Response Framework);  

  • room capacity where program(s) are being offered and the ability for participants to maintain physical distancing requirements of at least 2 metres (6 feet);  

  • local municipal by laws; and  

  • advice provided by local public health units. 

Do I need to complete the screening tool for myself and my children before attending an EarlyON program? 
Yes, all participants must complete a screening tool daily to attend an EarlyON program. Participants may not be able to attend depending on the results of the screening tool. 
What happens if I forget to do the online screening prior to attending the EarlyON program? 
If an individual is not screened prior to arriving at the EarlyON Centre, active (in-person) screening should be available. 
Can snacks be provided at the EarlyON program? 
EarlyON centres may provide food and beverages should they be able to follow the strict public health measures and provincial guidelines. 
Can I bring my own snack(s) to the EarlyON program?
Yes, attendees may bring their own food and beverages. However, there should be no sharing of food and beverages between program participants. In addition, personal food and beverages should be consumed during the regular meal or snack times and should meet any allergy restrictions set by the EarlyON Centre. 
What disinfecting measures are  EarlyON programs completing to make the  space as safe as possible for my child to use? 

EarlyON Centre premises should be cleaned daily. In addition to the existing cleaning protocols that were in place pre-COVID-19, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day.However, more frequent cleaning and disinfection may be necessary, depending on the frequency of use and extent of soilage.


Frequently touched surfaces, including any used toys and materials, should be cleaned and disinfected in between program sessions. Providers are also encouraged to promote frequent, proper hand hygiene before and after using shared toys/equipment and materials.  

Please refer to Public Health Ontario’s Environmental Cleaning fact sheet for information on cleaning. 

Is outdoor EarlyON programming safer than being inside? 

Outdoor programming is strongly encouraged as a program delivery model, as it can allow for safer, physically distanced activities for children and families. Where programming is being offered in a shared setting (e.g., park), providers should follow public health advice: 

  • when outdoors, providers must adhere to the gathering limits set by the Government of Ontario and local municipal by-laws;  

  • the use of masks is strongly encouraged outdoors for adults or children (over the age of two) if physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) is difficult to maintain between individuals;  

  • ensure proper hand hygiene before and after using shared outdoor structures is advised; and 

  • toys and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected between users as well as between program groups. 

Do staff need to wear personal protective equipment at the EarlyON Centre? 
Yes, all EarlyON staff are required to wear medical masks and eye protection (i.e., face shield or goggles) while inside the EarlyON premises, including in hallways and staff rooms and while outside when physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) cannot be maintained. The use of medical masks and eye protection is to reduce the risk of COVID 19 transmission for those at the EarlyON centre. This is very important when working in a setting with young children who may not be wearing face coverings (i.e. under the age of two). 
Should I encourage my child to wear a mask while at EarlyON Centre?  

Yes, all children attending the EarlyON programs are included in the masking requirements.  Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver can be exempt from wearing masks. 


Encourage your child to wear a mask by doing the following: 

  • Explain why 

  • Children watch, listen and learn. Explaining the importance of mask wearing in simple terms can help them understand why wearing a mask is important. Allow them to ask questions and express their feelings. You may want to start by reading how to help children cope with stressful public events to give you some guidance. 

  • Give choices 

  • Consider letting children of all ages choose their mask pattern and/or colour. Kids like to feel independent and be given choices. If you are able, include your child in selecting a mask of their choice. 

  • Include masks in imaginative play 

  • Children have amazing imaginations. Include a few masks in their playtime and see what they come up with. Having masks present in their environment will help them become more comfortable to the look and feel of masks. 

  • Set an example 

  • When heading out in public be a role model. Show your children how you put on your mask and explain why you are doing it – to protect those around you 

For more info visit: Kids and Masks: Tips from an Expert 

Can I bring my stroller and a bag for personal items into the EarlyON Centre? 
Yes, you can bring a bag for your personal items into the EarlyON Centre.  It is asked that non-essential personal items not be brought into EarlyON centres and instead left in a vehicle or locked outside. If storage for personal items is required, policies are developed to promote physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) when accessing the space as well as regular cleaning. Items are asked to be stored out of the reach of children. 
What cleaning measures are EarlyON programs completing to make toys and learning materials as safe as possible for my child to use? 

EarlyON Centre premises should be cleaned daily.  Frequently touched surfaces, including toys and teaching materials, should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day (at a minimum), as well as in between program sessions. Providers are also encouraged to promote frequent, proper hand hygiene before and after using shared toys/equipment and materials.  


Shared objects (toys, equipment, etc.) and spaces (rooms, bathrooms, etc.) should also be cleaned between each use, and only one group at a time should access any shared space/equipment. 


Please refer to Public Health Ontario’s Environmental Cleaning fact sheet for information on cleaning. 

Will my child be interacting with other children while at an EarlyON Centre? 

Yes, however, EarlyON programs and services must be offered in a way that maintains physical distancing.  EarlyON Centres must always implement a physical distancing policy of at least 2 metres (6 feet) amongst all individuals.  

Note: Physical distancing does not apply to parents/guardians and their children living in the same home. 

Are indoor playgroups permitted under the guidelines? 

Yes, EarlyON Child and Family Centres were permitted to re-open with in-person indoor programming as of September 1, 2020. All in-person programs and services must be offered with enhanced health and safety protocols and physical distancing measures in place; although, outdoor programming is still considered lower-risk and encouraged over indoor programming. Please consult the EarlyON Guidance for more information. 

How can EarlyON Centres report when a staff, child, parent/caregiver, or essential visitor has a confirmed case of COVID-19 (i.e. a positive COVID-19 test result)? 

For questions regarding Public Health and operating during COVID-19:

Call 613-580-6744 


If EarlyON providers become aware of a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member, program attendee (parent or child), OR if they have any related questions: 

Contact OPH’s Outbreak (OB) Reporting Line immediately at 613-580-2424 ext. 26325open 7 days a week between 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or call 3-1-1 outside of business hours and ask to speak with the on-call Public Health Inspector for further guidance. 


Information for parents

Here are some important key messages for parents and guardians to review with their child before attending child care:

  • Stay at home when you are sick, even when symptoms are mild. Staying home helps prevent transmitting an illness to others.
  • Ensure that personal belongings and food are not shared with children and staff.
  • Practice ‘no touch’ greetings with your friends and staff at child care. Let’s share a wave and not our germs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When not wearing a mask, physical distancing is especially important to keep you and the friends around you healthy.
  • 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.

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.


What’s the Best Mask for Me - Video

Wearing a cloth (non-medical) mask helps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and helps protect people who are around you. When you wear a mask, you are helping to protect other people. When other people wear a mask, they are helping to protect you. Children attending child care from age 2 to SK will be encouraged but not required to wear masks in indoor spaces. Visit our Masks page for additional information on how to wear a cloth (non-medical) mask and store them safely when not in use. Frequently asked questions about masks and children

Physical distancing

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people outside your social circle and household that you interact with and ensuring that whenever possible the people you interact with remain more than 2 metres (6 feet) away. This will help to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Physical distancing helps limit the transmission of the virus when used with the other public health measures such as hand washing, wearing a mask and staying home when sick.

Mental wellness supports

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.

Mental health resources

Mental health resources for staff

Useful links and resources:

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

COVID-19 Update

Contact Information

Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 telephone line

  • Monday to Friday, from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • Weekends, from 9:00 am to 4:00 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 9-1-1.

See someone not respecting COVID-19 rules?

How to access help during COVID-19

  • 211 Ontario can help you find financial and social support during COVID-19
  • Telephone: 2-1-1

Related Information



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