Masking Requirements for Child Care: COVID-19
Face Coverings in Child Care Settings
To provide for an effective developmental and educational environment, and to ensure safety for workers, students, and children, child care settings must comply with the specific requirements outlined below as directed under Executive Order 20-81 (see Executive Orders from Governor Walz) on the use of face coverings and face shields. Although face coverings are recommended indoors, child care settings have unique needs that do not always permit universal face coverings when indoors. Child care settings also require additional flexibility surrounding the use of face shields, which increase visibility of facial expressions and lip movements, which is critical to early childhood development and learning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have emphasized that other strategies, such as the practice of “cohorting,” or the practice of maintaining smaller, consistent groups or cohorts of children and related workers who avoid intermixing to the extent possible, may be a more effective risk mitigation strategy for settings with younger children than universal face coverings. Child care businesses must document their implementation of the requirements, recommendations, and exceptions in this guidance within their COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, notify families, and offer to provide them a copy. Child care businesses are also required to train staff, other caregivers, and volunteers on the plan, and post the plan in a prominent place so it is accessible to staff, caregivers, and volunteers who need to review it.
Child care settings are defined as: family and group day care homes (licensed under Minnesota Rules, chapter 9502); child care centers (licensed under Minnesota Rules, chapter 9503); certified centers (certified under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 245H); legal nonlicensed child care providers (defined under Minnesota Statutes, section 119B, subdivision 16); certain license-exempt Head Start, public, and private school programs (defined under Minnesota Statutes, section 245A.03, subdivision 2 (a) (5), (13), and (26)); and other Head Start, preschool and pre-kindergarten programs, serving children 5 and under.
A child care setting may implement a face covering policy that requires more protective actions than those outlined in this guidance or Executive Order 20-81.
Consistent groupings and cohorts
To reduce the risk of exposure, child care settings should maintain consistent groups or cohorts of children and related workers, and should take steps to avoid intermixing groups or cohorts of children and workers to the extent possible. For center-based child care settings regulated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), refer to previous communication with recommendations for group size limitations for licensed child care centers and certified child care centers.
When a face covering is required for staff and providers
All staff working in an indoor care setting must wear a face covering in communal areas (e.g., center or building hallways, lobbies, restrooms, breakrooms, etc.) where groups may intermix. Alternatively, staff may wear a face shield (clear plastic shield that covers the forehead, extends below the chin, and wraps around the sides of the face) when wearing a face covering is problematic (for example, when young children would benefit from viewing staff facial expressions and lip movements to understand what is being said and how words are formed).
- This requirement does not apply to family and in-home care providers—these providers should refer to the recommendations below.
- Face coverings must be worn at all times by staff who intermix between classrooms.
- If a child care setting has a kitchen, cafeteria, or other food services component licensed by MDH or a local health department, all workers in these settings must follow the Industry Guidance for Safely Reopening: Restaurants and Bars (PDF).
When a face covering is recommended, but not required for staff and providers
- For staff in an indoor classroom or care setting (including family child care and in-home care settings) that are confined to one group or cohort of children. Staff and children are strongly encouraged to wear coverings or shields in these settings to the extent possible, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained, unless wearing a covering or shield would interfere with the early childhood development process.
- This recommendation does not apply to staff who float between rooms such as those helping to cover staff break times or deliver meals. In those cases, staff must be required to wear face coverings.
- For staff in any outdoor space when it is difficult or not possible to maintain social distancing.
Exemptions to the face covering requirement for staff
- Staff with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for them to wear a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, people who have a medical condition that compromises their ability to breathe, and people who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. They should consider using alternatives to face coverings, including clear face shields.
- The Department of Health published Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings for more guidance and resources for businesses, including child care centers, regarding accommodation of worker health conditions and disabilities. In addition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides helpful information that child care settings may wish to consult when verifying employee health conditions (see Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees under the ADA).
Face coverings for children
- Children 5 years of age and under are not required to wear a face shield or face covering in a child care setting.
- Children who are under the age of 2 years, or children who are sleeping, unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering or face shield without assistance; or who cannot tolerate a shield or covering due to a developmental, medical, or behavioral health condition must not wear a face covering or face shield.
- Children age 2 through 5 years who can reliably wear a face covering or face shield in compliance with CDC guidance on How to Wear Cloth Face Coverings may do so. This means they can wear it without frequently touching or removing it.
- Optional exemption: If a child care provider cares for children who are 5 and under, but also cares for children older than 5, the business can exempt children older than 5 from face covering and face shield requirements only if the exemption is clearly communicated in writing with all enrolled families and included in the COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. This is intended to ensure that in cases where a few children attend a program after-school, a provider can determine what is most age-appropriate and supportive of the development and safety for all children in the environment. Again, the policy must be communicated clearly with all enrolled families.
When staff and children can temporarily remove their face covering
- Staff and children who are required to wear a face covering or face shield under this guidance may remove their face covering or shield temporarily to engage in certain activities listed below that make wearing a face covering or shield difficult, provided that social distancing is maintained to the extent feasible:
- When eating or drinking.
- When communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition, or mental health condition that makes communication with a face covering difficult.
- When participating in physical activity or when engaged in other activities (e.g., presenting, performing, or playing an instrument) that would make it difficult or impractical to wear a face covering or face shield.
- When receiving a service (e.g., medical, nursing, or personal care services) that are impossible or difficult to perform when the individual receiving the service is wearing a face covering.
- During activities such as swimming, where a face covering will get wet.
- Staff and children may remove their face covering temporarily when alone, including when alone in an office or other enclosed work area, a room, or a cubicle with walls that are higher than face level when social distancing is maintained. Walls separating a room or cubicle must be high enough to block the breathing zone of the person working in a room or cubicle and any person(s) in adjoining rooms or cubicles. For more information about this exemption, see the Frequently Asked Questions About the Requirement to Wear Face Coverings.
Which masking requirement do I follow if my city already has a requirement?
The Executive Order establishes the minimum face covering requirements for all Minnesotans. If a local government authority (such as a city or county) establishes requirements that are more protective (in that they require face coverings in more situations), those requirements must be followed.
What are the requirements for parents and other visitors?
- Those who do not work at or attend the child care facility must follow the requirements of the Executive Order, which generally require people to wear face coverings in all indoor businesses (whether on public or private property) and indoor public spaces.
- The Executive Order contains exemptions, situations where face coverings may be temporarily removed, and additional recommendations. Please refer to the following resources for more information:
- Child care settings must also post one or more signs that are visible to all parents and visitors instructing them to wear face coverings when indoors.
Key Messages about Face Coverings
- Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth while wearing face coverings or face shields to prevent potential contamination.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on a face covering or face shield.
- Remove your face covering or face shield carefully and wash your hands thoroughly after removing.
- Wash the face covering or face shield after each use.
- Wearing a face covering or face shield does not replace the need to continue frequent hand washing, avoiding touching the face, and practicing social distancing, which are our best tools to help prevent the spread of illness.
- Continue to use your typical systems and processes for cleaning toys, keeping sick children home, washing hands, and other practices that are used every day. These actions help to keep the community healthy and safe.
- Face coverings and face shields do not provide adequate protection for others if a person has symptoms compatible with COVID-19. Ill persons should stay at home.