Acting Director of Emergency Medical Services in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Kurdell Espinosa Campbell, says the Government intends to put additional safety measures in place for the operation of day-care facilities before they are allowed to fully reopen.
She was addressing a digital town hall hosted by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development on July 23.
Day-care centres are allowed to resume operations for an initial two-week period beginning July 21, once they are in full compliance with the coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols stipulated by the Ministry.
Dr. Espinosa Campbell underscored that while childcare operators, even before the onset of COVID-19, generally take great care to ensure that their facilities are properly sanitised, there are still some challenges that need to be addressed.
“The Environmental Health Team [at the Ministry], we have to sit down and define some clear parameters for [full] reopening,” she said, noting that the Paediatric Association of Jamaica and other specialist groups must also be consulted.
She said that the measures will take into account the different stages of development of children at these facilities.
“You have some preverbal children; they may listen, but they cannot necessarily speak and you have children who are up and running. Their natural tendency developmental-wise is to touch. They touch their mouth, their hands and contaminate surfaces,” she pointed out.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, for his part, said that the disaster risk management orders, including those for the operation of day-care facilities, will be put under review on July 31.
“Once we are satisfied, based on the constant inspection that we are doing, that everything is in order, then it can be recommended for a further extension [into] another period,” he said.
The protocols for the reopening of day-care facilities include having adequate staffing, and maintaining a ratio of one adult to five children for children zero to 12 months; one adult to eight children for children 13 to 35 months; and one adult to 10 children, for children aged three to five years.
Where possible, staff should be tested before being approved to work. There must be temperature checks of all persons on each entry to the day-care centre.
The protocols also outline that children must be observed for signs of runny nose, cough, fever and gastrointestinal symptoms and there must be an isolation area for anyone who exhibits symptoms. Those with a fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius or higher) must be sent home.
There must be multiple thermometers available for screening children, and these devices should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
All rooms must be cleaned and sanitised at least twice daily. Restrooms are to be cleaned and disinfected every hour. Frequently touched areas as well as toys must be sanitised frequently. Toys made from cloth must not be used.
Seating and sleeping areas must be rearranged to ensure at least three to six feet between each child. Large groups must not be allowed in common areas.