Preventing and Responding to COVID-19
Head Start and Early Head Start programs should take steps to prevent the introduction and spread of coronavirus among their staff, children, and families. CDC provides up-to-date information about the current outbreak. This section is regularly updated with the most relevant guidance and resources. All published resources are listed under Recent Updates.
Medical professionals and scientists are constantly learning more about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here's what we know so far:
- There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19
- The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus
- The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs
- Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas with significant community-based transmission. This CDC video shows how to make an easy face covering using a t-shirt and rubber bands. There's no sewing involved. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.
Social distancing, effective hand-washing, and appropriate cleaning all help to reduce the spread of the disease. Coronaviruses are "enveloped viruses," meaning they are among the easiest types of viruses to kill before people are infected.
CDC provides up-to-date information about the current outbreak, including:
- Symptoms and Testing
- Prevent Getting Sick
- How It Spreads
- Protect Yourself
- Cleaning Your Home
- Daily Life and Coping
- Household Checklist
- Stress and Coping
- Caring for Children
- If You Have Animals
- If You Are Sick or Caring for Someone
Your state and local health departments may offer more specific information.
Hand-washing and Hygiene
Along with social distancing, hand-washing and good hygiene practices are the most important things you can do to stay healthy.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Keep all hand sanitizers out of children's reach. Always wash hands with soap and water if they are visibly dirty.
- Cough or sneeze inside your elbow or in a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth so you do not infect yourself.
For Programs Currently Serving Children
Follow CDC Guidance for Schools and Child Care Programs. All facilities should continue to adhere to state and local child care licensing policies and regulations unless otherwise notified by state or local officials. Facilities currently serving children should address these additional considerations:
- Implement social distancing strategies
- Modify drop-off and pick-up procedures
- Follow the CDC protocol to safely check an individual's temperature
- Intensify cleaning and disinfection efforts
- Follow these steps to clean and disinfect your facility
Adhere to current guidance about gatherings and events.
- Avoid gatherings in groups of more than 10 people. [PDF, 680KB]
- Plan to limit non-essential visitors and postpone or cancel use of classroom volunteers.
Hygiene Information for Staff and Families
The CDC has many short, easy to read, and multilingual resources for addressing COVID-19.
Audio messages, from the Centro Binacional Desarollo Indigena Oaxaqueno (CBDIO), are available for families who speak Mexican indigenous languages.
Stop the Spread of Germs
Handwashing: Keeping Your Family Healthy
- Practice Dental Distancing During COVID-19 [PDF, 1.8MB]
Share Facts About COVID-19
Help stop the spread of rumors.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
Cleaning and Disinfecting
As noted, coronaviruses are among the easiest types of viruses to kill with appropriate cleaning.
For All Settings
Information on disinfectants is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with tips available in nine languages.
EPA also offers a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) confirming the safety of public water sources for washing and drinking.
Topic: Physical Health
National Centers:Office of Head Start
Last Updated: May 29, 2020