Will your kids have to wear masks when N.J. daycare reopens? Here are the new guidelines.

Posted May 30, 2020

When child daycare centers reopen in New Jersey in mid-June, they will be required to conduct temperature checks of kids and staff and limit class sizes, while children will be encouraged — though not required — to wear masks to protect against the coronavirus.

Those are the safety guidelines the state released Saturday, a day after Gov. Phil Murphy announced that child-care services can reopen to all clients Monday, June 15 after nearly two months of closings because of the pandemic.

Murphy signed the executive order Friday as he continues to slowly peel back his near-lockdown restrictions now that the state’s outbreak has slowed significantly. It also allows outdoor organized sports to resume June 22, outdoor high school sports to resume June 30, and youth day camps to operate beginning July 6, all with safety restrictions.

“This is an important step forward in New Jersey’s reopening strategy, ensuring a safe, stable and seamless childcare infrastructure for New Jersey’s returning workforce, not just those designated as essential,” said Christine Norbut Beyer, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families.

“And it probably comes as welcome relief for parents who did not know how they were going to juggle summer care or childcare needs with their job responsibilities."

She added that "to take this step safely, we have to move in a (planned) and methodical way to support centers and camps in reducing the likelihood of spreading the virus,” Norbut Beyer added.

Daycare centers in the state have been ordered closed since April 1 to everyone other than the children of emergency and essential workers.

To reopen, they must follow the following guidelines:

  • Screen children and staff each day. Anyone with symptoms or a fever of more than 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to enter.
  • Limit class and group sizes, with groups spaced throughout the center. Staff members will not be allowed to move between groups.
  • Staff members must wear face coverings and children over the age of 2 will be “encouraged” to wear them, “whenever feasible."
  • Children under the age of 2 will not wear masks, nor will any child during naps, because that may cause suffocation.
  • The centers must be cleaned and sanitized.

Nurbut Beyer said Friday that one concern about face coverings is that some children may continuously remove their masks, forcing staff members to put them back on.

“That could be riskier,” she said, adding that face coverings will likely be recommended on a child to child basis.

Licensed childcare centers must file an attestation with the state Department of Children and Families saying they plan to open with those standards.

Operators of summer camps and daycare facilities in the state said Thursday reopening won’t be easy or immediate. They’ll first need financial support, clear guidance, and time to hire and train staff before, they told a state Senate committee.

Murphy did not provide specific data that shows why officials deemed Friday’s moves to be safe.

But officials say the number of coronavirus hospitalizations, new deaths, and new cases in the state have dropped in recent weeks, while the number of daily tests being administered has increased.

New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million residents, has reported at least 11,634 deaths attributed to COVID-19, with 159,608 cases, since the outbreak began here March 4. Officials on Saturday announced 113 new deaths and 910 new positive tests.

As of 10 p.m. Friday, there were 2,626 patients with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections across the state’s 71 hospitals. That’s down 81 patients from Thursday and the second day of drops after two days of slight upticks.

“Especially over the past two critical weeks, even though we have seen some days with spikes, we remain confident in our overall direction," Murphy said Friday.

New Jersey is currently in the first stage of the governor’s multi-phase reopening plan, though Murphy has not provided hard dates or specific benchmarks the state has to hit to reach the next two stages. He said Friday he will have more details Monday, including a date when Stage 2 can begin.

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