MONTPELIER – Gov. Phil Scott is directing child care facilities to cease normal operations except to provide child care services for workers deemed “essential” to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor’s office announced Tuesday evening.
Under a directive issued Tuesday evening by Scott’s administration, child care providers are asked to care for, at a minimum, their own enrollees who are children of “essential persons” and are encouraged to extend care beyond normal operating hours to service those children.
The directive asks providers to work with state officials to also offer child care services for children of essential workers not currently enrolled in any child care programs.
Per Scott’s order, employees considered “essential” include:
- Health care providers including, but not limited to, workers at clinics, hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, nursing homes, long-term care and post-acute care facilities, respite houses, visiting nurse associations, designated agencies and emergency medical services;
- Criminal justice personnel including those in law enforcement, courts and correctional services;
- Public health employees;
- Vermont National Guard personnel called to duty to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak;
- Other first responders and state employees determined to be essential for response under the State Emergency Operations Center; and
- Staff and providers of childcare and education services, including custodial and kitchen staff, for children of other essential persons.
According to Scott, the definition of essential persons could change as the state’s response to COVID-19 evolves.
Those centers not catering to children of essential personnel are asked to remain closed until April 6, with Scott directing the state to continue providing current levels of tuition funding to child care centers during the closure period to “help preserve these important services for Vermonters post-response.”
The Agency of Education and Agency of Human Services have meanwhile been directed under Scott’s orders to work with child care centers to address other funding gaps to support centers providing “these emergency services for children of ‘essential persons.’”
“Teachers, childcare providers and school support staff are going to be as critical to our response as our doctors, nurses and healthcare support staff,” Scott said in a statement. “That’s why, even as we ask the public to step back to help slow the spread of this virus, we are asking others, including our educators and child care providers, to step in and provide a critical service so those who are on the frontlines of our response can continue to care for the sick, protect the public and manage this evolving challenge.
“I am incredibly proud of the selflessness of these public servants at this time of need.”
The governor’s directive regarding child care facilities comes days after an order to close all schools included orders that schools also provide child care services for essential employees.
Schools are developing mandated child care services locally on a district-by-district basis.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we need our educators and childcare providers to be flexible and creative in their approach, and we’ll do everything we can to support them. At the same time, we need all Vermonters to be patient and supportive of their efforts,” Scott said. “How each district and region meets these guidelines may look very different depending on where you live, and that is okay. We must work together to meet the challenges we face today and in the days ahead.”
Child care facilities servicing children of “essential persons” are required to practice hygiene and social distancing per state guidelines.
Scotts orders regarding child care centers follows an announcement Tuesday that the number of Vermont residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 grew from eight to ten, with an additional seven cases confirmed among nonresidents visiting Vermont.
While most cases of COVID-19 will be either mild or moderate according to state and federal health officials, some cases can result in serious – and even life-threatening – symptoms, especially among elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.
The Vermont Dept. of Health is asking travelers returning to Vermont from countries heavily impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak – namely most of Europe, China, Iran and South Korea – to self-isolate for 14 days and call the health department at (802) 863-7240 for monitoring information.
The health department also asks that those with symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing reach out to their respective health care providers over the phone and not go to the hospital except in life-threatening situations.
In order to help stop the spread of germs, the Vermont health department advises individuals:
- Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- Stay home when they are sick;
- Cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; and
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
More recommendations and other information on COVID-19 is available online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Vermont Dept. of Health at healthvermont.gov/covid19.
A copy of Scott’s directive regarding child care services for “essential” workers is available below: