Ontario reopening child care with strict protocols amid COVID-19 outbreak

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At a June 9 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed additional measures to help cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the Ontario government announced its plan to reopen child care centres across the province to support the next stage of the province’s reopening framework.

The plan to reopen child care centres was developed in consultation with Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and medical leaders at The Hospital for Sick Children. It will require child care operators to follow strict health protocols to ensure the safety of both child care staff and children. 

Today’s announcement was made today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.

As we prepare to reopen more businesses and services, it is critical that we ensure supports are in place so people can return to work knowing their children will be cared for in a safe and healthy environment,” said Premier Ford.

Our child care plan sets out strict protocols that must be followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have made great progress to contain the virus, but we must be mindful that there is still a public health risk.”

As the province continues to implement its Framework for Reopening the Province, child care centres and home care providers across the province of Ontario will be able to reopen with strict safety and operational requirements.

These requirements will be similar to the safety guidelines required for emergency child care centres.

Centres will be required to adopt specific rules, including putting children and staff in groups of 10 or less, a COVID-19 response plan where all child care settings will be required to have a plan in place if a child, parent or staff member/provider is exposed to COVID-19, screening, daily attendance records, cleaning, no visitors and implementing drop-off and pick-up protocols in a way that facilitates physical distancing.

Effectively immediately, staff can re-enter child care facilities and begin preparation for reopening.

They will be permitted to reopen once these operators have met all the strict guidelines for reopening.

We know the integral role child care plays in the restart of Ontario’s economy, especially when it comes to enabling parents to return to work,” said Minister Lecce.

But parents must have confidence in the child care system at this very difficult time. By imposing specific public health requirements, we are signalling our firm commitment to keeping our children, staff, and our families safe.”

The Ministry of Education has been working with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to develop these protocols, which will enable the safe reopening of child care centres across Ontario and enhance safety through effective contact tracing.

This plan requires strict requirements on operators, such as mandatory training and reporting and support from the local medical officer of health before reopening.

Having children safely re-engage in learning, play and social activities with other children is of great benefit to their mental, emotional and behavioural development,” says Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). 

Children thrive when they are able to interact with other children. The reopening of child care centres is an important step forward for allowing children to be with their peers and enjoy activities outside of their home environment.”

Based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and with strict health and safety protocols in place, the government is now allowing summer day camp programs across Ontario to reopen this summer. 

Earlier this month, strict health and safety guidelines were developed by the Ministry of Health in partnership with public health, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and municipalities and distributed to local public health teams.

Overnight camps are still not permitted to operate in the summer of 2020.

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