Haƞ Mitakuyapi,

I am writing to update you on the school’s and community’s preparedness in response to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). To continue our mission at C̣aƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi (CWOO), we have a goal of continuing to keep our families and staff healthy and able to learn and work.

The Office of Head Start announced two new requirements in the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through

  • Requiring Head Start staff (CWOO All Staff and Contractors working directly with children) to be vaccinated by January 31, 2022; and
  • Implementing Universal Mask Wearing for all individuals ages 2 years and older with exceptions (Full Summary on Page 2).

We have put a full summary of the new requirements as well as a Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Children Wearing Masks One-Pager and a Positive Strategies to Help Kids Wear Mask one-pager. With this new Head Start ruling, CWOO will be providing education around masking using positive strategies that are developmentally appropriate such as the ones (i.e putting in lesson plans such as showing dolls wearing masks, coloring pages, showing them how adults are wearing masks). We want to note, CWOO will not be physically touching a child and forcing them to put masks on, instead we will focus on providing education around masking and asking children to wear mask through these developmentally appropriate, positive strategies.

We also want to give an updated on CWOO’s COVID-19 Decision Tree. Please find attached. With the CDC updated guidance, we will be changing quarantine recommendations from 14 days to 10 days with an option of a 7-day shortened quarantine if they meet the parameters. We will continue to follow the 10-day isolation period (if child were to contract COVID-19).

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at 507-697-8254 or at [email protected].

Pidamayayapi,

Vanessa Goodthunder
Director

Summary of Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs

This briefing describes the requirements announced in the Interim Final Rule with Comment and how they will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Check out the FAQs to learn more about mask and vaccine requirements for Head Start programs and read the Preamble to understand more about the data and reasoning behind the requirements.

Background

Vaccination and masking are essential components necessary to returning to full comprehensive Head Start services. On Sept. 9, 2021, Path Out of the Pandemic: President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan was released. Under the Action Plan, the Biden-Harris administration required the nearly 300,000 staff at Head Start programs across the country to be vaccinated. President Biden also called on state governors to require vaccinations for all teachers and school staff, as now required in federally-funded schools.

Through this IFC, the Office of Head Start (OHS) is exercising its legal authority to add a mask and vaccine requirement for grant recipient staff to the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS).

Mask Requirement

Universal masking is required for all individuals 2 years of age and older when:

  • Indoors in a setting when Head Start services are provided.
  • Two or more individuals are in a vehicle owned, leased, or arranged by the Head Start program.
  • For those who are not fully vaccinated, outdoors in crowded settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people. OHS notes that being outdoors with children inherently includes sustained close contact for the purposes of caring for and supervising children.

Exceptions

  • Children and adults when they are either eating or drinking.
  • Children when they are napping.
  • The narrow subset of individuals who cannot safely wear a mask because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), consistent with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on disability exemptions.
  • When a child’s health care provider advises an alternative face covering to accommodate the child’s special health care needs.

Vaccine Requirement

Full vaccination against COVID 19 is required for: · All staff (as defined in Terms, 45 CFR §1305.2 [Staff])

  • Those contractors whose activities involve contact with or providing direct services to children and families
  • Volunteers who are in classrooms or working directly with children other than their own Consistent with CDC’s current definition, people are considered fully vaccinated:
  • 14 days after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines
  • 14 days after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

Timeline

Individuals are required to be vaccinated by Jan. 31, 2022. This means staff, certain contractors, and volunteers must have their second dose in a two-dose series or first in a single-dose by Jan. 31, 2022.

It takes time to get vaccinated. To be vaccinated by Jan. 31, 2022, individuals must begin receiving COVID-19 vaccination no later than:

  • Jan. 3: First-dose (Moderna)
  • Jan. 10: First-dose (Pfizer-BioNTech)
  • Jan. 31: Second-dose (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech)
  • Jan. 31: Single-dose (Johnson & Johnson)

For purposes of this regulation, staff, certain contractors, and volunteers will meet the requirement even if they have not yet completed the 14-day waiting period required for full vaccination by Jan. 31. This timing flexibility applies only to the initial implementation of this IFC and has no bearing on ongoing compliance.

Exemptions

  • Exemptions may be granted for people who request and receive an exemption from vaccination because of a:
    • o Medical condition, or medical necessity requires a delay in vaccination, as documented by a licensed medical practitioner (as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act)
    • o Sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance (established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964)
  • It is the responsibility of Head Start programs to establish a process for reviewing and granting the exemptions (e.g., medical conditions, sincerely held religious beliefs).
  • Those who are granted an exemption for one of the reasons listed above are required to undergo at least weekly testing. Aside from those who are granted exemptions for one of the reasons above, there is no testing option as an alternative to the vaccine requirement.
  • Programs must develop and implement a written COVID-19 testing protocol for those granted vaccine exemptions. To develop of a COVID-19 testing protocol, programs should consult with their Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC) and local public health officials, along with recommendations from their agency’s legal counsel and Human Resources department.

Documentation – Programs are required to track and securely document the vaccination status of each staff member and vaccine exemption requests and outcomes. However, programs have the flexibility to use any appropriate tracking strategies.

Justification

Given that children under age 5 are too young to be vaccinated at this time, additional measures must be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially the more infectious Delta variant.

Reduced Transmission – These requirements will reduce the transmission of COVID-19 from staff to children and families. Reduced transmission:

  • Protects the health and safety of children, staff, and families
  • Prioritizes safe, sustained in-person early care and education for children — with all of its known benefits to children and families

Reducing Program Closures – Requiring staff to receive the vaccine and all persons over 2 years of age to wear masks is critical to reduce program closures due to COVID-19 exposures. Program closures impose hardship and create instability and stress for Head Start children and families. They disrupt children’s opportunities for learning, socialization, nutrition, and continuity and routine. Program closures from COVID-19 exposures also impact the ability of Head Start families to work. Staff vaccination requirements may cause temporary program closure due to low availability of staff. However, the majority of Head Start children will benefit from the reduced program closures due to COVID-19 exposures.

Protecting Families – Children and staff may return home to family members who are older or have underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk for COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality. Many families of Head Start children and staff are members of minority communities who have been shown to be at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2. There has been a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths and lower vaccination rates among racial and ethnic minority groups. Requiring vaccination among Head Start staff is not only an issue of personal health, but also promotes public and community health and health equity for children and staff in Head Start programs.

Return to Full In-person Services – In May 2021, OHS outlined expectations that programs move toward fully in-person services as soon as possible and by January 2022, factoring in local health conditions. In light of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the requirement for programs to deliver fully in person services, these standards are essential to create the safest environment possible for staff, children, and families. Consistent with ACF-PI-HS-21-04 OHS Expectations for Head Start Programs in Program Year (PY) 2021–2022, programs should continue to work toward full enrollment and in-person services, contingent upon local health conditions, by January 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Masking for Children

How do masks keep people safe?

COVID-19 mainly spreads among people through the air. You can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 when you do things like breathe, talk, laugh, or sing. You do not have to feel sick or be coughing and sneezing to spread the virus. A mask traps most virus particles so they cannot infect other people. You have the most protection from the virus when you and the people near you wear a mask too.

Why do we still need to wear face masks?

It is possible to have COVID-19 but not have any symptoms. That’s why wearing face masks is still so important as the virus still spreads, especially for unvaccinated children. Well-fitting face masks reduce the chance of spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Should children wear masks?

The CDC recommends that everyone 2 years of age and older wear a mask when they are around people who do not live in their household. Children should wear a mask both indoors and outdoors except when eating or napping. Children under 2 years old or anyone unable to remove their own mask should not wear one. Families of children with special health care needs may consult their child’s health care provider about the best type of face covering.

When do children need to wear masks? A recent surge in COVID-19 cases prompted new universal indoor masking guidance to help stop the spread. Universal indoor masking helps protect those not fully vaccinated or eligible for COVID vaccines. A child or adult is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the final dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that everyone over age 2 wear a face mask at indoor public places right now–whether or not they are vaccinated against COVID-19—in areas where community transmission rates are substantial or high. In addition, universal indoor mask use should continue in all K-12 schools, regardless of location, for all students, teachers, staff and visitors. The same is true at indoor camps, and while participating in group activities such as most indoor sports and outdoors sports with close contact (unless your child has certain medical or developmental conditions, as advised by their doctor). Everyone should also continue to wear face masks when traveling. This includes travel on a school bus, plane, train, or other form of public transportation, and at the airport or station.

If you have a medically fragile child or an at-risk adult in your household, you may want to consider having anyone at home who is not fully vaccinated wear masks at home to help protect them. It’s also recommended to wear a face mask inside your home if someone you live with is sick with symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive.

How can I help children feel comfortable with masks?

Most children are used to wearing and seeing people in masks. Predictable and consistent routines around mask wearing can help young children feel more comfortable and know what to expect. Treat mask wearing as an emerging skill. Support children in learning how to wear a mask consistently to be healthy and safe by showing children how to wear their mask so it fits securely over their mouth and nose. Give positive feedback to children for their efforts and keep it playful! Find more ideas in Helping Children Understand Emotions When Wearing Masks.

Social stories may also be helpful. Children love to read stories that include their pictures and photos of people they know. You can even make your own social story with photos of adults and children in your program. You can also use this Wearing Masks story from the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations.

How Will CWOO help the Children wear the Masks?

With this new Head Start ruling, CWOO will be providing education around masking using positive strategies that are developmentally appropriate such as the ones on page 7 (i.e putting in lesson plans such as showing dolls wearing masks, coloring pages, showing them how adults are wearing masks). CWOO will not be physically touching a child and forcing them to put masks on.

Positive Strategies to Help Kids Wear Masks

To help children better grasp the importance of wearing a mask.

  1. Use child-friendly language.

Kids respond best to very simple, positive, and gentle explanations. You can relate the practice to other lifesaving measures behaviors that your child does every day — for example, wearing a seatbelt or a helmet. Explaining that just like it’s a rule that everyone wears a seatbelt in the car, it’s also a rule right now, to wear a mask to go places like the doctor, stores, and even school.

For older toddlers and preschoolers, it may also help to tell them that face masks help protect each other from spreading germs.

  1. Model mask-wearing.

Children pick up on behavior from peers and adults, which is why it’s so fun for toddlers to pretend to have conversations on a toy phone or want to use tools.

If they see parents and older siblings wearing masks and that it’s a rule that applies to everyone, they will be more likely to copy that behavior. Kids are greatly influenced by the people around them.

Parents should keep in mind that stubbornness and resistance during these ages is to be expected. Just like with many things at this age, forcing a child to wear a mask can lead to a battle for control. Control is an important part of a child’s development and understanding. Instead of a power struggle, model for them how to wear a face mask to make them feel more comfortable.

  1. Practice through play.

Play is how children process emotions and learn. Play is a great way to practice something like wearing masks, in a fun and exciting way. Pretending to be a doctor while wearing a mask and practice taking masks on and off or wearing it while pushing a pretend cart at the store. Having masks available in everyday play will help children become familiar with them. Have child put masks on a favorite doll, superhero, or stuffed animal. Allowing children to play and express themselves through that play will help them process any questions or concerns that they may have.

“You might compare the face mask to dress up or superhero masks or even play peekaboo with the masks to prepare younger children,” says, certified Mott Child Life Specialist Mary Harwood

Drawing face masks on characters in coloring books or coloring pictures of people wearing masks may also help.

  1. Let them choose the mask.

Giving children any sense of control may go a long way. They may not have control over the rule, but maybe you can let them pick the color or design of the mask.

Crafty parents may even consider making a mask with their child using their chosen pattern.

  1. Take small steps.

At home and in the community, practice wearing masks. At first, giving children a small prize like stickers or little treats whenever they’re able to wear a face mask for a short amount of time.

They could start out wearing masks during a favorite TV show or on a quick errand to the grocery store. Make sure they have time to process the concept before needing to apply it for longer stretches.

Consistency helps form good habits. You can gradually increase the length of time, as your child gets better and better at wearing a mask. Just as your child is accustomed to getting dressed and brushing their teeth before leaving the house, wearing a mask can become a part of their daily routine

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