COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

OHS COVID-19 Updates

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has deeply impacted Head Start and Early Head Start programs, enrolled children and families, and their communities. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has the authority, under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, to determine that a public health emergency exists. Once a declaration is made, it remains in effect for 90 days and can be extended. Effective Oct. 18, 2021, Secretary Xavier Becerra extended the public health emergency that was initially declared on Jan. 27, 2020, and has been renewed every 90 days.

This section is regularly updated with guidance and resources from the Office of Head Start (OHS) to help all programs support staff, children, and families during this challenging time.

Latest Updates

11/29/2021: New Standards for Vaccination and Masking to Reduce Transmission of COVID-19

Vaccination against COVID-19 and wearing face masks are safe, effective tools to support continuous in-person comprehensive services for children and families. Dr. Futrell shares why these new standards are necessary.

11/29/2021: Universal Masking and COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement FAQs

Find answers to common questions about the mask and vaccine requirements for Head Start programs announced in the IFC.

11/29/2021: Summary of Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs

This briefing describes how the masking and vaccine requirements announced in the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

11/10/2021: CDC’s Updated COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Child Care Programs. It emphasizes the importance of universal masking for everyone ages 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status. The updates also provide more information on screening, testing, and guidance for fully vaccinated staff. Review strategies for early care and education (ECE) programs to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and maintain safer operations.

10/22/2021: Strategies for Staff Vaccination

Listen as Head Start program leaders from across the country discuss their experiences supporting COVID-19 staff vaccination. Learn about their most successful and innovative strategies used to encourage their staff to become vaccinated.

9/27/2021: ACF-IM-HS-21-05 Supporting the Wellness of All Staff in the Head Start Workforce

Staff wellness is vital to child well-being. It is also a critical component in the ability to address the diverse and individualized needs of Head Start children and families. This IM describes the importance of, and requirements and recommendations for, building a culture of wellness across all Head Start programs.

9/21/2021: Supporting a Strong Education Workforce

Explore strategies Head Start and Early Head Start programs can use to recruit, train, and retain education services staff who are qualified and dedicated to working with our youngest learners and their families.

9/21/2021: Resources to Build and Retain a Strong Education Workforce

Find resources for building a program culture that provides ongoing professional development and mental health supports to teachers, family child care providers, and home visitors.

9/9/2021: Head Start Vaccination Requirement Announced

President Biden announced a plan requiring all Head Start program staff and certain contractors to be vaccinated by January 2022.

9/9/2021: Head Start Forward: A Q&A Opportunity to Engage with Showcased Programs

Watch this bonus webinar for guidance and support programs can use as they work toward full enrollment and fully in-person comprehensive services.

8/25/2021: Head Start Forward: Showcase of Grantee Best Practices on In-person Services

The fifth Head Start Forward webinar showcases programs' successful practices around: ERSEA and program structure; staff recruitment, retention, mental health, and wellness; and environmental health and safety.

8/4/2021: Head Start Forward: Health and Safety Considerations

Listen to the fourth webinar in the five-part Head Start Forward series for important health and safety considerations, guidance, and support programs can use as they work toward full enrollment and fully in-person comprehensive services.

7/14/2021: Head Start Forward: Mental Health and Staff Wellness: Emotionally Strong Together

Watch the third webinar in the series to discover mental health and staff wellness resources and strategies. Review guidance around trauma-informed approaches, staff wellness, sensitive conversations with families, and social and emotional development. Keep the conversation going on social media using #HeadStartForward.

6/25/2021: Head Start Forward: Moving Forward for ERSEA Success

Watch this webinar for guidance and support programs can use as they work toward full enrollment and fully in-person comprehensive services. This webinar addresses FAQs from the first Head Start Forward webinar. It also provides information and strategies related to program structure, ERSEA, family partnerships, and community assessments. Keep the conversation going on social media using #HeadStartForward.

6/3/2021: Vaccination for Head Start Families

Discover new ideas for targeted promotions that support Head Start families in getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Explore strategies and examples of how they have been successfully implemented by Head Start programs.

6/1/2021: Head Start Forward: ERSEA and Program Structure

Watch the first webinar in the series for guidance and support programs can use as they work toward full enrollment and fully in-person comprehensive services. Keep the conversation going on social media using #HeadStartForward.

5/20/2021: ACF-PI-HS-21-04 Office of Head Start (OHS) Expectations for Head Start Programs in Program Year (PY) 2021–2022

Review OHS's expectations for programs to begin working toward full enrollment and providing in-person comprehensive services for all enrolled children in PY 2021–2022.

5/19/2021: Introducing the Head Start Forward Campaign

Dr. Bernadine Futrell, director of OHS, announces the launch of the Head Start Forward campaign. This initiative will bring programs together and help them prepare for the 2021–2022 program year.

5/14/2021: Mental Health Resources to Support Response and Recovery During COVID-19

Head Start and child care programs can use these tip sheets and resources with families and staff affected by a crisis or tragic event.

5/12/2021: Caring for Children with Asthma During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As Head Start and Early Head Start staff, you may care for children with asthma. Use these tips to help children with asthma participate safely in program activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5/11/2021: Partnering with Families to Seek Relief Through the American Rescue Plan

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provides many sources of direct and indirect financial relief for Head Start families. Head Start programs can help all staff and families access critical supports for which they are eligible. Learn about these benefits and what you can do to help families reach their economic mobility goals using the ARP benefits.

5/11/2021: COVID-19: Oral Health Considerations

Help families discover things they can do at home to keep their mouths healthy. Learn about steps dental offices have taken to keep patients healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5/4/2021: ACF-PI-HS-21-03 FY 2021 American Rescue Plan Funding Increase for Head Start Programs

Discover activities grantees can consider as they continue supporting children and families and investing in safe and high-quality early childhood learning opportunities using American Rescue Plan funds.

4/8/2021: COVID-19 Risk Reduction Strategies: Posters

COVID-19 risk reduction starts with helping everyone understand the steps to staying healthy. Download and display these printable posters to remind staff and families about basic COVID-19 prevention strategies. These posters promote vaccination, masks, and simple strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

4/8/2021: #SleeveUp4HeadStart Staff Social Media Toolkit

Use social media to encourage grantees to #SleeveUp4HeadStart and get vaccinated against COVID-19. This resource include images to download and post, plus bonus materials to promote vaccination.

4/8/2021: NIH Research Opportunity Announcement

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published a research opportunity as part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative to gather research on COVID-19 diagnostic testing approaches to safely return children and staff to the in-person school setting in underserved and vulnerable communities. Find guidance on the development and submission of this solicitation.

4/7/2021: Recommendations for Performing Hearing Screening Safely During COVID-19

Explore recommendations for conducting in-person hearing screening in a Head Start or Early Head Start center, if it is feasible, reasonable, and safe to do so.

3/29/2021: Supplemental Funds to Continue Responding to COVID-19

All Head Start, Early Head Start, and Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnership grantees are eligible to receive additional funds to continue responding to COVID-19. Each grantee may apply for a proportionate amount of the $250 million based on their total funded enrollment. Watch this webinar to learn more about available funds and how to apply.

3/24/2021: Tips for Talking to Head Start Families and Staff About the COVID-19 Vaccines

Most people plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but others may want to know more before committing. This resource includes strategies for talking with Head Start staff and families about the COVID-19 vaccines.

3/24/2021: COVID-19 Vaccines: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Watch this webinar where experts explain the science behind the vaccines and answer FAQs to help program staff make the best decisions for themselves and their families. This webinar will benefit Head Start leaders, managers, teachers, home visitors, family child providers, and family service, transportation, and support staff.

3/17/2021: ACF and CDC Early Childhood Vaccine Priority: an OHS Follow-up Conversation

Discover actions Head Start programs can take to support staff as they obtain their vaccines through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Federal Retail Pharmacy program. Explore ways programs can use funds to address social connections, enhance emotional learning and support in-person services.

3/12/2021: ACF and CDC Early Childhood Vaccine Priority Stakeholder Webinar

President Biden challenged states to get essential school and child care workers their first COVID-19 vaccine shot by the end of March. Watch this stakeholder webinar for more information and outreach resources.

3/4/2021: COVID-19 Vaccine Information and Resources

Head Start and Early Head Start teachers and staff are critical to the continued functioning of their communities. They are also at potential occupational risk of exposure to COVID-19. To support staff and safe in-person learning, President Biden directed state, territorial, local, and tribal officials to prioritize teachers, early educators, and child care staff for COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccinating teachers and staff is considered one layer of mitigation and protection for staff, children, and families.

3/4/2021: Putting COVID-19 Funds to Work: Examples from the Field

Explore examples of how grantees have used COVID-19 funds to serve children and families in creative and innovative ways. See what investments other programs have made to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. These grantee stories might help you think about your service delivery differently:

3/4/2021: Remembering Lives Lost Through COVID-19

In her first message as director of the Office of Head Start, Dr. Futrell shares her condolences for the lives lost from COVID-19. She also calls for love, strength, and resilience to help us get through this together.

3/3/2021: President Biden Announces Vaccine Priority for Child Care, Head Start, and Early Childhood Settings

President Biden is directing states to prioritize teachers, early educators, and child care staff for COVID-19 vaccination. He issued a challenge to states to provide at least the first vaccine dose to teachers and early educators by the end of the month. This includes prekindergarten through 12th grade teachers, people who work in child care centers, family child care providers, and Head Start and Early Head Start program staff. Vaccines will be available in pharmacy locations. Staff in child care, Head Start, and other early childhood settings will be able to sign up for appointments.

2/22/2021: CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Recommendations

The CDC makes recommendations for who should get the vaccine first, then each state makes its own plan. Use the How Do I Find a COVID-19 Vaccine? tool to find your state or territory health department. Find more information on vaccine rollout recommendations.

2/19/2021: ACF-PI-HS-21-01 FY 2021 Head Start Funding Increase

This PI addresses the fiscal year 2021 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), quality improvement funding for Migrant and Seasonal grantees, and the supplemental funds available to support grantees’ continued response to COVID-19.

2/18/2021: Responding to COVID-19 in Early Childhood Programs

Child care health consultants can help programs adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch this video to review the latest guidance. Discover in-person and virtual implementation strategies to help staff, children, and families stay healthy.

1/28/2021: Caring for Young Children and Staff During COVID-19

Watch this video for guidance to help programs reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and support their amazing staff who provide high-quality care to children and families. It focuses on practical risk reduction strategies that programs can use in all settings.

1/13/2021: Providing Meal and Nutrition Services During COVID-19

The number of children in households struggling with food insecurity has more than tripled. As the pandemic continues, we encourage programs to take advantage of available flexibilities to ensure children’s nutritional needs are being met. Watch this on-demand webinar for best practices to combat food insecurity during COVID-19. It features experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety.

For older information, see Archived OHS COVID-19 Updates.