UC Berkeley’s Early Childhood Education Program (ECEP) has worked diligently to develop and adhere to strict protocols as the health and safety of children and staff continues to be our utmost priority. Our program is working under various new protocols and procedures to comply with health and safety guidelines.
We have developed a compilation of information and practices for maintaining a safe environment for our staff. This handbook is updated regularly as new information comes out.
Pandemic Sick Policy
I understand that if my child exhibits one or more of the above listed symptoms at any point in the day my child will not be able to return to the center until:
- The child has remained home for at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, AND there have been at least 24 hours with no fever, without the aid of taking medicines to lower the fever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), AND other symptoms (such as cough or shortness of breath, are improving), OR
- My child’s symptoms have resolved AND the child has been evaluated by a medical professional (a doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a certified physician assistant), and provides a letter indicating that (1) an alternative diagnosis has been made and (2) the child’s symptoms are most likely NOT due to a virus, such as COVID-19, OR
- The child has received a NEGATIVE viral test, AND the child is feeling better, AND there have been at least 24 hours with no fever, without the aid of taking medicines to lower the fever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), AND the child has consulted a medical professional (a doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a certified physician assistant) to determine the significance of their symptoms. The medical evaluator will need to provide a letter indicating that (1) the child’s symptoms are most likely NOT due to a virus, and (2) the viral test was negative.
April 1st, 2020: ECEP began serving children of essential workers through a waiver establishing Emergency Childcare at our Haste Street location.
July 1st, 2020: ECEP expanded services to provide care for children of non-essential workers who were previously in UC Berkeley’s ECE program.
August 13th, 2020: ECEP’s 2020-21 school year began with limited enrollment based upon the enrollment priorities established by the University.
August 22nd, 2020: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
December 16, 2020: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
February 2, 2021: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
February 8, 2021: ECEP staff began to receive COVID-19 vaccinations from University Health Services.
March 3, 2021: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
March 8, 2021: ECEP was notified of an additional two (2) staff members and one (1) child who tested positive for COVID-19 in the previously closed classroom. Program families and staff were notified.
July 27, 2021: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
August 29, 2021: ECEP was notified of a child who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
January 3, 2022: Spring Semester reopening is postponed to Monday, January 10th, 2022 to ensure all staff and children test negative for COVID-19. All staff and children must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before returning to our centers. Please see the message from Executive Director, Darrell Whitacre for more information.
January 7, 2022: Updated information regarding requirements for testing children prior to their readmittance to ECEP centers was distributed to ECEP families. Please see the message from Executive Director, Darrell Whitacre for more information.
January 20, 2022: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
January 21, 2022: Updated information regarding recommendations for testing children 2 years or older weekly was distributed to ECEP families. Please see the message from Executive Director, Darrell Whitacre for more information.
January 21, 2022: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
January 23, 2022: ECEP was notified of three staff members who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classrooms were temporarily closed.
February 3, 2022: ECEP was notified of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
February 7, 2022: ECEP was notified of a child who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
February 18, 2022: ECEP was notified of a child who tested positive for COVID-19. Affected families and staff were notified, and in accordance with state and local public health requirements the classroom was temporarily closed.
Fall 2021-22 Protocols
There have been some changes in Community Care Licensing guidelines for COVID-19 and the variants (this includes CalOSHA, CDC, CDPH, and local public health agencies). This information is based on current COVID-19 data and is subject to change. ECEP will be practicing the following protocols for Fall 2021, starting on August 16, 2021:
- Face coverings will continue to be required indoors.
- Staff will continue to wear face coverings as children remain an unvaccinated population.
- Parents may be allowed to enter only with the consent of the Center Director and only one-at-a-time per classroom for short durations. They must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test and wear a face covering at all times while at ECEP facilities.
- Physical distancing with children will be practiced when possible
- During play
- During meals
- During nap/rest
- Staff will continue to clean classrooms as best as possible to reduce the spread of disease.
- Materials can be shared versus individualised, but remember to sanitize regularly and practice plenty of handwashing.
- Children will have a daily health check done by the teacher at drop-off.
- Staff will be required to provide a personal daily screening before starting work.
- Scheduled temperature taking is no longer required. However, teachers will take temperatures on arrival (or each morning).
- Staff and families will continue to be encouraged to be vaccinated to protect our children from COVID-19. Learn about University Health Services vaccine clinics for students, staff, and faculty.
- Any exposure to COVID-19 must be reported.
- Children 2 years and older are recommended to engage in weekly surveillance testing.
COVID-19 Exposure Protocol
While we do everything in our power to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our care centers, we understand that positive cases within our community are possible. We have developed clear protocols and communications for the event of a positive case. We intend to be as transparent as possible with all of our communications regarding potential exposures. Below is a summary of the steps that we take once we are notified of a positive case.
- Affected individual notifies University Health Services of a positive case (University Health Services will complete contract tracing for individuals in close contact)
- Center Director verbally communicates with staff and families affected by a classroom closure
- Center Director verbally communicates with remaining staff at affected center
- Center Director communicates with University Health Services to confirm workplace close contact list
- Center Director contacts City of Berkeley Health Department for guidance, and to complete School Portal Outbreak Tracking (SPOT) form
- University Health Services & City of Berkeley Health Department verifies the date of last exposure, generates a timeline for classroom closure, and notifies Center Director & Executive Director
- Executive Director sends an email to affected individuals (with potential exposure), and the larger ECEP community (without potential expsure) (see below for sample communications)
- Center Director contacts Community Care Licensing to report an unusual incident
- Center Director contacts Admissions Coordinator, who cancels food for the affected classroom
- Executive Director contacts UC Berkeley Custodial Services to schedule a deep cleaning of affected classroom/center to remove any potential contaigent
- ECEP website is updated with date of classroom closure
- Closed classroom reopens after 10 days from date of last exposure
- ECEP website is updated with date of classroom reopening
- Notice of Positive Case (With Potential Exposure)
UC Berkeley Early Childhood Education Program (ECEP) has been notified that an individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19. We know that even though the coronavirus is believed to be very much present in the Bay Area and beyond, this is distressing news and you likely have a number of questions and concerns. We are here to help.
This letter confirms the conversation that has already occurred with you concerning the possibility of exposure. Your family has been identified as a family who may have had close contact with the individual who tested positive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (less than 6 feet apart for 15 minutes or longer) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Please see below instructions regarding quarantine, testing, and returning to care.
Home Quarantine for 10 days
Until you meet the requirements for returning to care services (see below), you are excluded from physically coming to the center to help prevent potential spread of the virus. You need to quarantine at home for 10 days after your last date of exposure to the ill individual. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend other family or household members who care for the child quarantine as well, although it is not required. We also strongly recommend you consider minimizing contact with anyone who falls into a medically vulnerable group during this period.
While testing close contacts is helpful in earlier identifying infected individuals, it does not replace the requirement to quarantine for the full 10 days, the incubation period of the virus. In particular, testing too soon (less than 5 days after exposure) has no value. Please contact your health care provider to inquire about testing. If you do not have a health care provider or need to be connected to a testing site please visit https://covid-19.acgov.org/testing.page. UC Berkeley faculty, staff, or students can be tested at UHS; see their testing page.
If you become symptomatic
If at any point anyone in your household develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, night sweats, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, muscle or body aches, headaches, confusion, or loss of sense of taste/smell), please contact your personal physician for advice and testing immediately. Please also notify UC Berkeley University Health Services via their CONFIDENTIAL line at (510) 643-8227 so that we can ensure the continued safety of our community. UHS keeps medical information confidential and will only disclose it on a need-to-know basis to protect public health, as required by law. Due to federal privacy laws, we are required to maintain the confidentiality of any medical information we receive, including the name of any affected child or their family.
Returning to Care Services
If during and after the 10-day quarantine you continue to be symptom free, and do not test positive for COVID-19, you may return to care services. Please seek guidance from your healthcare provider or UHS if you are unsure.
Finally, please note this notification is only for individuals who may have had close contact. In most cases, we will only notify individuals if the contract tracers determined they were in close contact (more than 15 minutes of contact within 6-feet distance) with the individual who tested positive. Simply working or living in the same building with someone who recently tested positive does not put you at higher risk for getting the virus. In most cases, the risk would be no greater than the everyday risk posed by community spread.
If you have any immediate questions or concerns, you may contact Darrell Whitacre. For more information on COVID-19, visit the City of Berkeley website at cityofberkeley.info/covid-19.
- Notice of Positive Case (Without Potential Exposure)
We hope you are doing as well as can be expected during these difficult times. We are writing to inform you that we have recently had an individuak test positive for coronavirus. The individual is currently in 10-day quarantine.
We have worked with University Health Services and local public health officials to determine if any staff or children have had close contact with the individual and have notified all affected individuals. All potentially affected individuals have been advised to quarantine at home for 10 days and we have recommended they also consider being tested. You have not had close contact (more than 15 minutes of contact within 6-feet distance) with the individual who tested positive.
It is understandable that you may want to know more information. Under federal health privacy law, we are not able to release personal health information. You can track the UC Berkeley coronavirus dashboard to check new cases and trends on campus.
That being said, University Health Services and/or local public health officials engage in rigorous contact tracing and notify individuals and groups that have had close contact with people who have tested positive. They also work with Environment, Health & Safety to provide for appropriate cleaning and disinfection of affected areas.
Simply receiving care, working or living in the same building with someone who recently tested positive does not put you at higher risk for getting the virus. In most cases, your risk would be no greater than the everyday risk posed by community spread.
We will continue to offer child care services in compliance with all state and local public health guidelines and licensing requirements. We will continue to take temperatures and do daily symptom checks for all staff and children at each ECEP site and require facial coverings for all staff, parents, and children (over the age of 2 years old). If you are concerned about exposure, we encourage you to discuss your risk with your personal medical provider; however, the best public health guidance indicates that you are not at greater risk than the risk posed by community spread.
Policy for Child Face Coverings
ECEP adheres the recommendations set forth in COVID-19 Update Guidance: Child Care Programs and Providers (July 17, 2020) as follows:
Never place face coverings on babies or children under 2 because of danger of suffocation
Children aged 2 years and older should wear face coverings, especially when indoors or when a six-foot physical distance from others cannot be maintained
- Face coverings are strongly encouraged for young children between two years old and second grade, if they can be worn properly. A face shield is an acceptable alternative for children in this cohort
At this time, ECEP does not require children to wear face coverings, although our staff actively encourage children to wear face coverings when possible.
Traveling During the Pandemic
Travel during the COVID-19 pandemic increases your chance of catching and spreading COVID-19.
Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others and nonessential travel is not advised. However, if you DO have to travel, it is important to discuss your travel options with your family, friends, and community beforehand.
Things to consider:
- Be sure to check the entry requirements for the place you are traveling to, which may change at short notice. Good sites to check include the State Department Travel website (for international travel), and individual state websites (for travel within the US). You may also wish to research COVID rates at your exact destination in making your decision. Please note that many countries require documentation of a negative COVID test within 48 hours of travel, which can be challenging to obtain. Non-US citizens/residents should be aware that the U.S. border remains closed to many nationals and could change at any time.
- Traveling by mass transit (air, train, bus, ferry) is likely to expose you to more people than you are usually around, who may not have been as careful as you, and who may be traveling from areas with higher rates of COVID than the Bay Area. It is difficult to 100% protect yourself when you are sitting in an airplane within 6 feet of 8 people (which is the case with many airlines currently, with every other seat blocked), especially on a long trip where you and others will need to remove your mask to eat or drink. When possible, drive and/or travel with people you live with.
- Since many people with COVID have no symptoms, you may be infected without being aware and thus unwittingly infect (or be infected by) family members or others you may be around. The more you travel, the higher the risk of infection for you and for others, some of whom may be at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.
- Since you may become ill while traveling, be sure to double-check your health insurance covers urgent needs wherever you are going, and that your tickets are changeable/refundable. Please do not travel — coming or going — if you have symptoms or have recently (< 2 weeks) been in close contact with a confirmed case.
Whether you travel or not, it is important to continue with regular surveillance testing. For additional information see the CDC COVID travel information website.
For more information please visit University Health Services Travel Guidance.
- How often do you test teachers/staff and children in ECEP?
All staff and children are all required to test negative prior to returning from break. Additionally, we strongly recommend weekly testing of staff and provide time in their schedules to complete the testing. Any unvaccinated staff who provided a declination are mandated to test weekly. We also test as often as needed and in accordance with the latest public health requirements.
Some families have requested weekly testing for all children. We are consulting with our campus public health officials on best practices. State licensing does not require weekly testing for children.
- What kind of testing does ECEP provide? Do you offer testing for children?ECEP uses both rapid antigen tests and PCR testing for staff through University Health Services. UHS is not staffed or equipped to provide any pediatric care (and therefore testing). The California Department of Social Services is providing all licensed facilities with Home Test Kits. These are being distributed to centers through the local resource and referral agencies. ECEP has applied for a supply of Home Test Kits through Bananas.
- I hear Omicron is more contagious. What kind of masks is the ECEP staff currently using?All ECEP staff must wear N95 or KN95 face coverings. We provide all staff with N95 face coverings. All children over the age of two years old are required to wear face coverings. The CDC has made clear that NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health) does not approve any type of respiratory protection for children so there are no official KN95 or N95 masks for children.
- Is there consistent masking for children over the age of 2? At pick-up and drop-off, I sometimes don’t see children masked.We require face coverings for children over the age of 2, but there are certain times when we let them take them off (i.e., during naps, while they are eating, etc.). Our teachers otherwise ensure consistent use of face coverings during play and classroom time and they also ensure children are covering their nose and mouth. We remind all families to ensure that children are wearing their face coverings properly while they are in their care (i.e., as they enter and exit the building).
- I find the new isolation and quarantine protocols from the CDC concerning. How do they work at UC Berkeley?We realize that public health guidance is constantly changing, making it challenging to keep up with the latest quarantine and isolation protocols. In general our protocols are more strict. University Health Services provides the most up-to-date information. Employees who are awaiting test results are not permitted to come to work until they get a negative test result. For those who test positive, they are not permitted to come to work for at least 10 days (this can be extended if they have a fever or their symptoms are not improving).
- What is the window during which families need to take a negative test for COVID?We sent a message to ECEP families to let them know that we are requiring children be tested and receive a negative result 1-3 days before returning to their ECEP center. We will accept the test results from COVID-19 home tests, as well as those done by a medical professional (you can find testing locations at https://myturn.ca.gov/ and https://www.testthepeople.org/). Once the testing is completed, we have asked the families to bring a copy of the results on their first day back to care (such as a photo of the negative at-home test).
- In the past, you’ve shared which ECEP centers have needed to close due to positive COVID cases. Knowing what ECEP school sites have tested positive for COVID is extremely important information for parents.When a staff member tests positive while working in a classroom, ECEP does report to parents the possible exposure. For staff who tested positive over the break/this past week in preparation for returning to campus, because the staff members were not on site it was not necessary to notify families as there was no possibility of exposure. For the report of any positive case, ECEP follows the COVID-19 Exposure Protocol which can be found on ECEP’s website.
- By what date will all ECEP staff be boosted? Boosters are necessary for being around an unvaccinated population during omicron. I would like to know if all staff must be boosted before being around the kids.The UC system has a vaccine mandate which requires boosters shots for all students, faculty and staff once they are eligible. All ECEP staff are in compliance with the vaccine mandate. ECEP staff are current, (up to date) on being fully vaccinated (boosted). Those awaiting eligibility have made appointments to vaccinate when they become eligible. Employees eligible for a booster vaccination must obtain one by Jan. 31, 2022.
- What is the protocol we will follow if one of the children is infected in a classroom? Will you still shut down the whole classroom, or will you just request the child to quarantine for a certain number of days? That is what is being done at my other kids' school. They are not shutting down any classrooms.The City of Berkeley provides contract tracing and guidance for any ECEP child who tests positive while in care. COVID-19 Exposure Protocol can be found on ECEP’s website. We only close a classroom when directed to by the City of Berkeley. Classroom closure is generally due to the fact that children under the age of five years old are not vaccinated and may have been in close contact less than three feet for more than 15 minutes throughout the day (e.g., during nap time or while eating). We are following city of Berkeley public health guidelines which currently require children who test positive to stay home for 10 days (with some modifications). However, this may soon change to align with the California Department of Public Health Guidelines which call for a shorter period if there are no symptoms or if symptoms are resolving and there is a negative test result. Positive individuals should consult with their medical providers.
- Can the campus provide antigen tests to families to test more often at home?At this point, UC Berkeley will not be able to provide antigen tests to families. The California Department of Social Services is providing all licensed facilities with Home Test Kits. These are being distributed to centers through the local resource and referral agencies. ECEP has applied for a supply of Home Test Kits through Bananas.
- Can you have all mealtimes outdoors?Unfortunately we lack the space and equipment to provide this at most of our locations. Additionally, weather conditions and local wildlife can impact our ability to consistently do so even for locations that do have the space and equipment.
ECEP Administration refers to a number of resources to develop the protocols and procedures implemented in our centers. For your consideration we have listed these resources below:
- UC Berkeley Coronovirus (COVID-19) Updates and Resources
- Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, Public Health Department COVID-19 Health Screening in Child Care Programs (November 18th, 2020)
- UC Berkeley Environment, Health & Safety COVID-19
- California All, Travel
- COVID-19 in the City of Berkeley
- State of California Department of Social Services, COVID-19 Vaccines for the Child Care Sector (March 9th, 2021)
- COVID-19 Update Guidance: Child Care Programs and Providers (July 17, 2020)
- State of California Department of Public Health, Guidance Related to Cohorts – UPDATED March 22, 2021 (September 4, 2020)