The CDC reported that Head Start programs have successfully prevented the spread of COVID-19 and could potentially be used as child care and other early education providers’ blueprints. Head Start programs are HHS funded programs that serve children between the ages of 0 and 5. Head start programs received $750 million from the CARES Act funding, and local programs implemented CDC recommended guidance.
The CDC strategies included guidance on using face masks, other personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and advice on staff-to-child ratios and how to physically set up facilities and helped prevent COVID-19 transmission among children staff members.
The study was conducted between September and October 2020 in Head Start programs in eight states, including Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. CDC reviewed the programs “standard operating procedures (SOPs) for COVID-19 mitigation, deployment of an online survey for program directors to document mitigation strategies implemented and COVID-19 cases reported, in-depth interviews with staff members from five programs overall, and observation of mitigation strategy implementation during a virtual visit to one Head Start site.”
Some key takeaways were staffing and operations flexibility, such as medical level, enhanced benefits during the pandemic, and remote working options. “Policies were put into place for staff members to stay at home without fear of job loss or other consequences,” the report found. Communication between program administrators, parents and caregivers, and teachers were vital to implementing mitigation strategies that included engagement of community partners and public health officials. These strategies can be applied to other settings to reduce COVID-19 transmission.