Public Health Guidance for Childcares

As COVID-19 continues to spread in King County, Public Health is asking everyone in our community to take steps to slow the spread of the virus. These actions are meant reduce the number of people who become ill, and protect our families, friends and neighbors who are at risk for severe illness.

On March 12, Governor Jay Inslee ordered all schools in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to close between March 17 and April 24. This announcement followed local and state emergency orders limiting large gatherings and mandating strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19. We know these closures will have significant impacts for many families in our community.

At this time, childcares and early learning programs may remain open and are not affected by the governor’s order.

Why are schools closing but not childcare?  

Childcare and early learning serve a vitally important function in allowing parents to continue working, which has significant public health and social benefits. Parents still need to work and children need safe and enriching spaces to spend their days.

Compared to schools, childcare settings have lower risks for exposure and spread of COVID-19 because there are typically fewer children in a childcare setting. The available evidence from the COVID-19 outbreak has shown that the risk of serious illness to young children is low. 

But if kids can be carriers, isn’t sending them to childcare still a risk to others?  

There are no easy answers and this situation is without precedent. We don’t fully understand the role of children in transmission. We do acknowledge that attending childcare may pose an increased risk compared to those who are able to social distance from one another. Protecting vulnerable staff and students is a priority, and we strongly recommend excluding staff and children who are in high risk and vulnerable categories. 

Reducing risk in childcare settings

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control outlines strategies to reduce risk in schools and childcare settings:

  • Take steps to reduce close contact. For example, stagger entry and dismissal times; alter schedules to reduce interactions among children; cancel activities that bring large groups into close contact; postpone sporting events and inter-school competitions
  • Monitor for illness in children, staff and volunteers
  • If your childcare has a case of COVID-19, consider short-term dismissals as needed for cleaning, while you are identifying close contacts of the ill person
  • Increase frequency of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting your school or childcare center. Follow the King County Childcare Health standard guidelines but with increased frequency.

Caring for yourself & your community

The more united we can be as a community, the stronger we’ll be in slowing the spread of COVID-19. This includes caring for ourselves, supporting one another, and showing compassion for families who are struggling to find a safe place for their kids to be. Childcare and early learning providers play a vital role in supporting families and communities. Remember to keep yourself healthy and manage your own stress: get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, meditate.

Childcare providers can also share resources and information to help families understand COVID-19 and take steps to protect themselves. Resources are available on our website.

Detailed guidance and resources for childcares can be found here: