All Illinois child care facilities can open with limits as soon as next week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says
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All Illinois child care facilities can open with limits as soon as next week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says

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All Illinois child care facilities can reopen at limited capacity as soon as late next week under changes to the state’s coronavirus health guidelines that Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday.

To date, the state has been operating at roughly 15% of its child care capacity with 2,500 day care homes and 700 centers allowed open to serve a limited number of children from families with emergency providers or essential workers.

With all four regions of Illinois on track to hit the COVID-19 case, death and hospitalization benchmarks to move on to the next phase of reopening, Pritzker said the state’s remaining 5,500 child care providers that have been shuttered will be asked to reopen. Provided the public health indicators hold steady, Illinois is expected to begin phase three next Friday.

In phase three, a wide range of businesses will be allowed to reopen with limits and safety precautions, including hairstyling salons, barbershops, spas, tattoo shops, nail salons and retail stores. The businesses account for hundreds of thousands of workers statewide.

"We can’t have a conversation about going back to work without talking about child care,” Pritzker said. “If we don’t have child care, a large portion of the workforce, especially women who too often bear a disproportionate burden, will be without any way to move forward without caring for their child themselves.”

Pritzker made the announcement on a day when Illinois reported 2,758 new known COVID-19 cases and 110 confirmed deaths, bringing the statewide total to 105,444 cases and 4,715 deaths.

Before Friday’s announcement, Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan did not call for child care and day care facilities to reopen until phase four, which would not begin until late June at the earliest. In recent days, parents across the state had raised concerns about not having available child care when their jobs resume.

When the remaining child care centers are allowed to reopen, they will be limited to no more than 10 children per classroom. The limit will be eight for rooms serving infants. Smaller, home-based day care facilities will be allowed to operate at their standard capacities, Pritzker said.

Once the facilities are able to operate safely for four weeks and get acclimated to new requirements, they will be allowed to expand to larger group sizes but not their full capacities, Pritzker said. Room limits for child care centers then would be adjusted to eight for infants, 12 for toddlers, 12 for 2-year-olds, and 15 for children ages 3 and older.

Under those expanded limits, the child care capacity in Illinois would be roughly 30% lower than it was before the coronavirus pandemic began. Pritzker’s office could not provide the statewide total for the number of child care homes, the number of child care centers or the total capacity numbers for each type of facility.

Child care facilities that are currently closed will be required to develop and submit a reopening plan to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that includes policies for how to isolate sick children or staff; ensure substitutes are available to step in if a staff member gets sick; report positive COVID-19 cases to the state; disclose all incidents of exposure to staff and families; and designate a staff person to work with local health officials on contact tracing.

Operators also will be required to do the following:

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  • Conduct daily temperature checks for all children, caregivers, staff and visitors, with no one admitted with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.
  • Frequently sanitize all “high-touch surfaces" in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
  • Require face coverings for all individuals over the age of 2 in hallways and when entering and exiting; in classrooms for children over the age of 2 to “the extent practicable”; and in classrooms for all staff. Face coverings would be optional for children and staff during outdoor play.
  • Limit staff to working with one group of children. A “floating” staff member is “permitted between no more than two rooms if smocks/overgarments are changed between rooms.”
  • Limit the use of playgrounds to one group of children at a time while sanitizing the equipment between groups.
  • Require children and staff to change shoes upon arrival or use shoe covers while indoors.

The governor said his plan was developed in consultation with 80 stakeholders from across the state, including child care providers, state agency officials, lawmakers, child advocates and public health experts.

During his daily news briefing in Springfield, the governor said that Illinois “so far has not seen a significant transmission of COVID-19 in child care settings, which is encouraging evidence that child care can be provided safely."

Still, he said, there is reason to take it slowly.

“Public health experts emphasize that there is much that we still don’t know about this new virus, how it spreads and especially what effects it has on children,” Pritzker said. “Therefore moving forward, Illinois must take a cautious approach that appropriately balances the need to greatly expand child care with the need to lessen the risk of spreading coronavirus.”

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