To protect children, families, and staff from infection and illness, Head Start programs must have an evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation policy that can be scaled up or down based on the impacts or risks of COVID-19 in their communities. Programs need to develop this policy in consultation with their Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC).
Consider the evidence-based strategies below when developing or updating your COVID-19 mitigation policy. Also, review the COVID-19 Health and Safety Checklist and Supply List to support the implementation of COVID-19-related policies and procedures.
Programs use infection control strategies every day. Layering multiple strategies together helps keep children, families, and staff healthy. Consult regularly with your HSAC and/or child care health consultant to inform your program practices.
Adding additional evidence-based strategies increases the level of protection, especially when the local impact of COVID-19 is high. These strategies can also help protect people who are more at risk for infection or severe illness, including children who are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and children under 2 who cannot wear masks. This also includes children and staff who have immune problems and/or some chronic illnesses or disabilities, as well as those who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations.
Evidence-based is an umbrella term that refers to using the best research evidence (e.g., found in health sciences literature) and clinical expertise (e.g., what health care providers know) in content development. Integrating the best available science with the knowledge and considered judgements from stakeholders and experts benefits Head Start children, families, and staff. — Supplementary Information on Establishing an Evidence-based COVID-19 Mitigation Policy
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) strongly recommends that Head Start programs use vaccines and tests as part of their evidence-based mitigation policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood of illness or death from infection. Head Start programs may choose to include their own requirements to support vaccination efforts, including, for example, requiring staff to remain up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, sharing information on COVID–19 vaccines with staff and families, and/or partnering with local agencies to increase vaccination access.
Risk Reduction Strategies for Everyday Use
These evidence-based strategies reduce the risk of spreading infectious diseases, including COVID-19:
- Stay up to date on immunizations for infants, children, and adults, including COVID-19 vaccines.
- Stay home when you're sick.
- Conduct daily health checks.
- Wash your hands.
- Cover your mouth when coughing.
- Clean, sanitize, and disinfect.
- Increase access to fresh air.
Improving and maintaining effective facility ventilation systems improves air quality for everyone and can also help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Refer to Tips for Working with a Ventilation Consultant.
Risk Reduction Strategies to Scale Up or Down
The evidence-based strategies below provide additional protection to decrease the risk of spreading COVID-19. Programs can layer these strategies on top of their regular practices when the local impact of COVID-19 is high. Programs can also choose to use these at any time to protect people at higher risk for illness.
- Wear a mask. Refer to The Value of Face Masks for more information.
- Get tested if you have symptoms.
- Follow recommendations for what to do if you were exposed to COVID-19.
- If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, follow recommendations for isolation.
Understanding COVID-19 in Your Communities
Programs can scale risk-reduction strategies up or down in response to the changing impact of COVID-19 in the community. Use these strategies to help inform when and how to scale up or down within your evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation policy:
- Regularly review illness trends and their impact on the attendance of children and staff.
- Regularly review data about the prevalence of COVID-19 from sources such as state, territorial, or tribal and local public health agencies, and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Check with your local public health agencies for strategies and guidance.
- Review the Health Outbreaks and Pandemics chapter of the Emergency Preparedness Manual for Early Childhood Programs.
- Search the Caring for Our Children (CFOC) Online Standards Database, which includes a series of COVID-19 modifications.
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Last Updated: June 6, 2023