Find answers to common questions about the COVID-19 mitigation policy requirements for Head Start programs announced in the Final Rule. Read the Preamble for the research and data that informed our decision-making.
COVID-19 Mitigation Policy
Q: What does it mean that programs are required to have an evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation policy?
A: The Office of Head Start (OHS) has released a Program Instruction that offers supplementary information to support Head Start programs in operationalizing this requirement. It includes resources and considerations for Head Start programs as they develop this policy in consultation with their Health Services Advisory Committee.
Q: What does this new requirement mean for the universal masking requirement?
A: This regulation, which includes the removal of the universal masking requirement, is effective Jan. 6, 2023.
Q: Is the COVID-19 mitigation policy requirement a permanent standard?
Q: Is there an end date for vaccination and testing requirements?
A: No. As of Jan. 6, 2023, vaccination for COVID-19 for staff, certain contractors and volunteers, and at least weekly testing for those with approved exemptions remains a requirement in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS), subject to the court injunctions.
Q: When will HHS issue a final rule on vaccines?
A: The vaccination and testing requirements remain under review.
Q: How will OHS monitor the COVID-19 mitigation policy requirement?
A: The requirement for the COVID-19 mitigation policy, which must be in place by March 7, 2023, will be monitored in the same way as other HSPPS. Formal monitoring will begin in the 2023–24 program year. OHS will collect data related to the development of a mitigation policy from a random sample of grant recipients in the spring. To support programs in meeting this requirement, OHS will offer training and technical assistance.
Litigation and Injunctions
Q: How does this impact programs in states under a court injunction? Will programs in these states be required to develop a COVID-19 mitigation policy?
A: All Head Start programs need to comply with the requirement to develop an evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation policy. OHS cannot enforce the vaccination and testing requirements, which remain in effect from the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period, for those programs in states subject to the court injunctions.
Q: If my state is among those for which the HHS is enjoined in either preliminary or permanent court injunctions, can my program still enforce a vaccination and/or masking requirement? What if my state has banned mask and/or vaccination mandates?
A: The court orders enjoin HHS, so Head Start programs in states in which there is an injunction can still choose to enforce masking and vaccination. However, programs located in states that ban mask use or prohibit vaccine status as a condition of employment should consult their legal counsel to understand the limitations and exceptions that may exist in each state’s laws or policies.
Last Updated: January 27, 2023