Austin, Texas – Last week, the Health Authority for Austin-Travis County issued emergency rules, which included requirements for local child care programs.
The emergency rules apply to child care programs that serve children birth through age 5. The emergency rules are separate from the health authority order for in-person school campus instruction issued on July 14, which applies to public and private schools and school districts.
The emergency rules require child care programs to:
- Report any lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among children or staff to Austin Public Health (APH);
- Follow the steps provided by APH regarding suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19; and
- Comply with safety guidelines in the “City of Austin Guidance for Open Child Care Programs" (also available in Spanish).
APH staff will advise child care programs on next steps when there are confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases or potential exposure, including whether a temporary closure of one or more classrooms is necessary. In the instance of a confirmed case, the City guidelines require child care programs to communicate with staff and parents about closure decisions, possible COVID-19 exposure, and any guidance about necessary quarantine or isolation measures.
The City guidelines also specify that:
- Staff and children over the age of 10 in child care programs must wear fabric face coverings;
- Entry should be denied to individuals with a temperature greater than 99.6°F; and
- Child care programs must implement a health and safety plan that details measures being taken to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that is available to staff and parents.
When enrolling a new child, programs should have parents complete two forms with health screening questions and information about their child’s previous child care program. Children with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have had close contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, must meet the criteria regarding resolution of symptoms and/or quarantine before they can return to or begin care in a child care program.
“We want to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in child care programs by ensuring children who may have an exposure from a previous child care program do not enter a new program before they complete their quarantine period,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “These steps will mitigate spread and help keep young children, the child care workforce, and the loved ones of staff and children in child care programs safe and healthy.”
In addition to the City guidelines, child care programs must operate in accordance with the emergency rules from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
APH continues to encourage employers to support employees whose child care has been disrupted due to COVID-19 by allowing home-based work when possible; offering flexible work options and paid family leave; and providing employees information about ConnectATX.org and 2-1-1 if they need assistance with rent, utilities, or other resources.
For additional COVID-19 information and updates, visit austintexas.gov/covid19.