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Children Don’t Have To Wear Masks In PA Care Facilities, But The State Wants Them To Be Cautious

Kathleen Davis
90.5 WESA

While children aren’t required by the state to wear masks in child care facilities, staff are.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services issued a new “frequently asked questions” document Tuesday outlining the updated guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.

As counties across the state move into the green phase of the reopening plan, providers will have to choose if they want kids to wear masks, if they will limit classroom capacity or if they’ll ask a child to stay home for an extended period if they have a fever. Providers also don’t have to reopen as counties move from yellow to green.

Previously, DHS had said that children over two should wear face coverings while with providers “when feasible” as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance states. The guidance advises staff to take the temperatures of children before they enter buildings and to clean toys and surfaces throughout the day. The state does want staff to monitor temperatures and continue thorough cleaning.

DHS still recommends children wear masks in public places.

“There’s a distinction between the very controlled environment at a child care facility versus being out in public spaces where there’s overcrowding and there’s less control over that environment at the moment,” said Tracey Campanini the deputy secretary for the state’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning.

Child care facilities also do not have to maintain six feet of distance between children. Rather, the state wants the same children to be in the same classrooms daily to limit cross-contamination.

If a child does have a fever, parents are asked to consult their child’s pediatrician.

“The recommendation is [the family] should follow up with their health care provider to talk about other symptoms and signs and make a determination from that point forward,” Campanini said.

DHS Secretary Teresa Miller said in an online press conference that if staff or children at a facility are exposed to COVID-19, parents of enrolled children will be notified.

Since March 18, cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among staff or children at 13 child care facilities in eight counties across the state. Four cases were in Philadelphia County, three in Allegheny County, two in Berks, Butler, Lehigh and Erie Counties and one in Washington County.

Last week advocates told Democratic lawmakers that more funding was needed to prevent the sector from collapsing.

The commonwealth received $106 million for child care from the federal CARES Act. Gov. Tom Wolf announced March 20 that $51 million of that would soon be issued to providers in the yellow phase – including $11.1 million to Philadelphia County and $4.2 million to Allegheny County. 

Miller said Tuesday that the $51 million would be issued by the end of June.