New COVID guidance causes some childcare centers to adjust restrictions

Minnesota child care providers are navigating new Minnesota Department of Health guidance when it comes to quarantining children in close contact with COVID-19.

The new MDH guidance states child care providers are no longer required to quarantine children and staff who are deemed close contacts to someone with COVID-19. It does not require the child care facilities to follow the new guidance.

Some owners told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS keeping up with COVID guidance is tough amid a whirlwind of changes.

"It’s been crazy. It’s been hectic," said Bill Taylor, owner of Primrose School of St. Paul at Merriam Park. "We’ve been fed with a fire hose. It’s been changing almost on a weekly basis."

Taylor said phones are ringing off the hook with concerned parents calling about the new guidance.

"I think there’s a percentage of parents who would like us to stay open and give them the option. I also think there’s a percentage of parents who think that we still should quarantine," Taylor said.

Taylor said Primrose follows COVID protocols by the book, but they’re taking their time with making a final decision.

"Safety for the children is our number one priority," Taylor said.

Another child care center in the Twin Cities said it isn’t ditching the quarantine requirement for COVID close contacts.

"We’re doing the best we can with the information that we have today and closely monitoring how any changes affect the children in our care," said Maria Snider, director of Rainbow Child Development Center.

But Snider said they’re loosening restrictions at the center. Kids are still required to stay home if they’re in close contact with COVID but under a shorter quarantine — shortened from 10 days to seven.

"Most of our children are under 5 and are ineligible to be vaccinated at this point, and so they don’t have that added layer and it’s really hard for kids under 5 to reliably wear masks," she said.

Snider said the COVID guidance changes so often it’s difficult to keep up.

"My wish would be that we could find a way to have consistent guidance across the board so that we’re not all kind of playing a guessing game," Snider said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to KinderCare to ask about its guidance. The company owns a handful of childcare centers in Minnesota.

The company shared the following statement addressing their decision following the new MDH guidance:

At KinderCare, the health and safety of our children, families and staff is always our top priority. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve worked closely with local health officials, the CDC and a panel of medical experts to ensure our centers remain as safe as possible. The latest guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health allows us to provide continuity of care for our children and families who count on us.

That said, if someone in one of our centers is diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19, we will continue to follow our own health and safety protocols. This includes notifying the local Health Department and partnering with them for their guidance as soon as we’re notified of a positive diagnosis. We also immediately notify all families in the impacted classroom whose children are considered close contacts, so that they can make the decision that feels best for them.

We will continue to enforce a strict exclusion for illness policy by requiring anyone with access to our programs who exhibits signs or symptoms of illness, or who has family members who are ill, to stay at home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours without the aid of medication. Limiting access to potentially infected people is still the best way to prevent the spread of any illness.

In addition, we require all of our employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly COVID tests before entering our programs. We compensate employees for the time it takes them to get their shots.