Masks and Head Start
- J. Christopher Watkins
- Monday, February 28th, 2022
Interim Final Rule stands unless your state was part of the injunctions against OHS. It may be a bit confusing please see the following for information from OHS.
US DHSS | ACF | Office of Head Start, Monday, February 28, 2022
CDC Community Levels Recommendations and Mask Wearing
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new recommendations on COVID-19 Community Levels which will help individuals and communities make choices on what precautions they may want to take, based on the level of disease burden in their community. Their recommendations show three clear levels of COVID-19 in a community: low, medium, or high. Today, the majority of the country is at low or medium levels. Under CDC’s updated COVID-19 Community Levels recommendations, prevention measures can be dialed up when our communities are experiencing more severe disease and dialed down when things are more stable.
In conjunction with the updated COVID-19 Community Levels, the CDC recommends that people should wear masks depending on the level of COVID-19 in their community. As a result, the new CDC mask recommendations differ from the masking requirement in the Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC), Vaccine and Mask Requirements to Mitigate the Spread of COVID-19 in Head Start Programs. At this time, the IFC remains the applicable regulation for Head Start programs except in those parts of the country where the Office of Head Start (OHS) is subject to preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders which prevent implementation and enforcement of the rule. Head Start programs should continue to follow the requirements laid out in the IFC in all states not subject to preliminary injunctions.
While reviewing the new CDC recommendations, OHS will not evaluate compliance with the mask requirement in its program monitoring. This pause on monitoring for compliance with the mask requirement will apply to all programs. Before resuming monitoring for compliance with the mask requirement, OHS will provide the grant recipient community with at least two weeks’ notice prior to implementing any changes.
America is in a stronger place today as a nation. Over 200 million people are vaccinated and nearly 100 million Americans have been boosted. With widespread population immunity, the overall risk of severe disease is lower. We have more tools than ever to protect ourselves from COVID-19, using mitigation layers such as vaccination, boosters, treatments, testing, high-quality masks, and improved ventilation. This layered approach is critical to reduce the risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 and spreading the virus to others.
With updated CDC recommendations for mask wearing, OHS advises that wearing a mask continues to be a key strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Head Start programs. Head Start programs serve children under 5 years of age, who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Mask use lowers the risk of spread between people, protects both wearers and those around them, and helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated. Mask use is particularly important to protect children with disabilities, some of whom may be more susceptible to complications from COVID-19.
As we have said before, children should never be disciplined for not wanting to wear a mask. While children can adapt to many new things, they are still in the early stages of development and may need reminders and reinforcements to comply with COVID-19 prevention practices. Mask wearing should be treated an emerging skill and children should be given positive feedback for their efforts.