The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood has released new regulations requiring that children ages three and up wear masks in daycare and childcare centers beginning Monday, September 21.
The regulations are based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which say that children ages two and older can and should wear masks in order to create a safe school or childcare environment.
Beth Bye, commissioner for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, said that the recommendations came on the heels of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, which shows that young children are capable of carrying high levels of the virus and potentially spreading it.
Bye said she has gotten mixed responses to the new rules. Teachers have expressed gratitude. Many parents, on the other hand, are resistant to the idea.
“This is a cultural shift,” said Bye. “We know it’s hard.”
April Lukasik, director of Bright and Early Children’s Learning Center, said her staff already have some creative ideas about how to get the children acclimated to mask-wearing. Some of their ideas include having the kids decorate their masks, or engaging them in dramatic role-playing.
“Are we an elephant today? Are we a tiger today?” said Lukasik, adding, “We’re confident that we can make it fun.”
Lukasik said they have also created “library corners,” socially distanced areas where a child can go for a mask break. They are also taking advantage of the good weather to have the children spend more time outside, where masks aren’t required.
Bright and Early serves over 500 families in five locations across Connecticut. Their children range in age from infants to five years of age; Lukasik said the new regulations will affect about 225 of the children in their care.
Lukasik agreed that taking steps to minimize the spread is critical. “Every single thing we can do is a step in the right direction,” she said.
She said that she doesn’t expect too much resistance from the children about having to wear masks in their classrooms.
“Three year olds are really adaptable, they care about their friends,” said Lukasik. She added that since children are now used to seeing people wear masks in public places, the idea should not feel quite as strange or scary.
Children with certain medical conditions and disabilities are exempt from the regulations. Additionally, the children don’t have to wear masks when eating or during naptime or “mask breaks.” Childcare programs are also allowed to create a “phase-in plan” through October 19 to allow children and families to adjust to mask wearing.
Bye said that the regulations will affect about 60,000 children in daycare programs, but she said that several of the daycare centers she had spoken with were already requiring their children to wear masks.
Alison Zanardi, director of the Old Lyme Children’s Learning Center, is one such center. Zanardi said that their nurse consultant felt it was a good precaution to keep their staff and students safe.
“I think it’s kind of our new normal,” said Zanardi, who said she believes that it is a good idea that the state is making these regulations mandatory for everyone.