Child Care

child careThe playbook is provided for Ottumwa and Wapello County home-based child care, pre-K programs at private and public schools, head start and early head start programs, private child care centers, temporary child care centers operated by municipalities for the children of essential service providers, and child care centers that partner with healthcare facilities to support healthcare workers who need child care.

Child care facilities are vital to keeping our essential worker parents on the front lines, and when the time comes, enabling parents to return to work. The health and safety of children, family, staff and child care providers is of the utmost importance. The recommendations below are consistent with the current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines in effect for child care facilities with enhanced focus on the health and safety of children and staff. Iowa has allowed child care centers to remain open among the pandemic.

Under the new state guidance, workers and children in day cares and schools don't have to quarantine so long as they and the infected person with whom they were in contact were consistently and correctly wearing face coverings. Only the infected person must go into isolation, while the close contacts should monitor their health.

Current Impacts

  • Low enrollment numbers 
  • Many child care centers have closed 
  • 10,600 vacancies for child care assistance across Iowa

Throughout the country, the child care industry — both child care centers and home-based programs — has been significantly impacted. With so many parents laid off or working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, many child care centers have closed. Some programs are open to serve the children of essential personnel; however, enrollment is far below normal levels. Effects have been devastating. Nearly half of 5,000 child care providers surveyed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in early April reported that they closed their doors during the pandemic, and almost 40% said they laid off or furloughed workers, or had been laid off or furloughed themselves. An additional 40% said they expect furloughs or layoffs in the next month. According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, there are 10,600 vacancies for child care assistance across the state.

Future Trends

Social Distancing Strategies

Parents should expect to see modified drop off and pick-up procedures, while providers will avoid mixing children across groups, and alter daily group activities that may promote transmission. Field trips or other events in the community are likely to be curtailed in the short term.

Intensified Cleaning & Disinfection Efforts

Child care providers will adhere to vigilant cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting procedures. Healthy hand hygiene will be intensified, toys will not be shared with other groups until they are washed and sanitized, and plush toys will be removed.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from your local public health department.
  • Require sick children and staff to stay at home.
  • Have a plan if someone is or becomes sick.
  • Screen children upon arrival for fever using touchless thermometers. Detailed CDC screening methods for child care providers can be found in the resource section below.
  • Train all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • When feasible, staff members and older children should wear face coverings within the facility.
  • Cloth face coverings should not be placed on babies and children under two because of the danger of suffocation.
  • Encourage vulnerable staff to talk to their healthcare providers to assess their risk and determine if they should stay at home.

Process & Space Modifications

  • Limit rooms to 10 individuals per room, including staff.
  • If possible, child care classes should include the same group of children and the same child care providers every day.
  • Limit the mixing of classes, such as staggering playground times separate groups for special activities such as art, music and exercise.
  • If possible, ensure nap time mats (or cribs) are spaced out as much as possible, ideally six feet apart. Consider placing children head to toe to further reduce the potential for viral spread.
  • Set up hand hygiene stations at the entrance and make children wash their hands before they enter. If possible, place sign-in stations outside, and provide sanitary wipes for cleaning pens between each use.
  • Consider staggering arrival and drop off times and plan to limit contact with parents as much as possible.
  • Ideally, the same parent or designated person should drop off and pick up the child every day. If possible, people at greater risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19, such as grandparents, or those with serious underlying medical conditions, should not pick up children.
  • Develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Routinely clean, sanitize and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, like toys and games, doorknobs, light switches, classroom sink handles, countertops, nap pads, toilet training potties, furniture, cubbies and playground structures.
  • Toys that cannot be cleaned and sanitized should not be used. Remove all plush toys.
  • Do not share toys unless they are washed and sanitized before being moved.
  • Bedding that touches a child’s skin should be cleaned weekly or before use by another child.
  • To the extent possible, when washing, feeding, or holding very young children, employees should wash their own hands, neck, and anywhere else touched by a child. Care providers should change the child’s clothes if there are secretions on it as well as their own clothes.
  • Wash hands before and after handling infant bottles prepared at home or on site.
  • Serve meals in a classroom instead of a cafeteria. Plate each child’s meal so that multiple children are not using the same utensils.
  • When diapering a child, employees should wash their hands and wash the child’s hands beforehand and wear gloves. Wash hands after and disinfect the area.


  • Communicate to parents the importance of keeping children home when they are sick.
  • Communicate to staff the importance of being vigilant for symptoms and staying in touch with facility management if or when they start to feel sick.
  • Post procedures for safe diaper changing in all diaper changing areas.
  • Place posters describing hand-washing steps near sinks.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns immediately.

Additional Resources