Masking of children linked to reduced childcare closures linked to COVID-19 – ScienceDaily – Archyde

A new Yale study found that child care programs in the United States that practiced child masking at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (May-June 2020) saw a 13% drop in program completions over the following year and the masking of children continued throughout the one-year study period was associated with a 14% reduction in program completions.

The first study of its kind on child masking to be published Thursday in JAMA network open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Medical Association, tracked the experiences of 6,654 center and home childcare providers from all 50 states during a one-year period (May/June 2020 to May/June 2021). It was part of a series of studies aimed at informing guidelines for the health and well-being of children in childcare programs and for the 1.1 million childcare workers who care for them.

It is believed to be the first large-scale, longitudinal study of the potential impact of various safety measures being used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in child care programs and keep this important service open to working families.

The findings come at a time when masking children in schools and childcare centers remains hotly debated, particularly as a surge in cases linked to the Omicron variant has led to a spate of childcare disruptions affecting millions of American families are affected.

During the study period, 43% of childcare programs were at least temporarily closed due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a child or staff member, the researchers said. Although several safety measures have been investigated (e.g. adult and child masking, 6-foot distancing, staggered arrivals and departures, outdoor drop-off and pickup), child masking emerged as the strategy most commonly associated with reduced rates Closing rates of childcare facilities is linked to allowing children in safe learning and care environments and enabling working parents and childcare workers to remain employed, the researchers said. Six feet away from seats and cots in childcare facilities, when used over a 1-year period, was associated with a 7% reduction in the likelihood of COVID-19-related childcare closures. The study controlled for the level of local COVID-19 transmission in the community.

“We have seen an increasing number of children, particularly young children, who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 and have been admitted to our children’s hospital,” said Thomas Murray, associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and the study lead author. “It’s encouraging to know that following child masking recommendations for children as young as two years old can be an effective way to keep young children in childcare programs and potentially lower their risk of COVID-19.”

Although the study provides encouraging evidence of the effectiveness of child masking, only 9% of child care programs required children as young as two to wear face masks during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. This percentage rose to 33% by May and June 2021. The mask rate was much higher among employees, with 64% reporting that all adult employees wore masks in May and June 2021.

Research has shown that children as young as two can safely wear masks in childcare facilities. “It’s the disruptions to learning opportunities and routines of care that harm children, not the masks,” said Walter Gilliam, professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center and senior author of the study.

“It is our responsibility to protect our young children by providing them with safe learning environments,” Gilliam said. “We need to remember that young children are incredibly observant. If they don’t see us smiling with our mouth, they will still see us smiling with our eyes or in the way we speak to them. Masks do not harm children; COVID-19 does.”

Previous research by the Yale team, published in August 2021, showed that 78% of childcare workers are vaccinated against COVID-19, a significantly higher rate than the general population at the time (65%). However, most children in childcare programs are under the age of five and are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. This makes these young children more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.

“Until children under five can be vaccinated against COVID-19, they are a particularly vulnerable population,” said Murray, a pediatric infectious disease expert. “We need to make sure the adults and older children around them are vaccinated and follow other tried and tested precautions to protect young children, such as: E.g. wearing face masks for children as young as two years old in community settings such as child care programs.”

The study was conducted before the highly contagious Omicron variant became the predominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States. “It is possible that child masking will become even more important during the current spate of cases caused by omicron,” said Dr. murray

The study comes at a time when childcare programs are suffering from increasing staff shortages due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, further threatening vulnerable childcare infrastructure — and when the much-anticipated increase in funding for early care and education has stalled US Senate. Closures of childcare facilities due to COVID-19 diseases and staffing challenges have made it very difficult for working parents to maintain employment. These closures also impair young children’s ability to benefit from the important social and early learning opportunities that a stable, safe, and caring early childhood program provides, researchers said.

“We know that children benefit from in-person learning opportunities, and that includes young children, and we know that many parents depend on childcare to go to work,” said Gilliam, expert on child care and early childhood policy. “Masking children will not eliminate all childcare closures, but it can help reduce some of them and keep our young children with caring adults who support their learning and development.

“Child carers have had a very tough time over the past two years,” Gilliam added. “They are struggling to get even basic things like access to COVID-19 testing, masks and payment protection during inevitable closures. We show how much we care about our children by supporting these childcare workers who are trying their best to keep our young children safe and happy.”

The Yale Children and Adults Research in Early Education Study Team (Yale-CARES) conducted this study as part of a series of research efforts aimed at informing policies on how to improve the health and mental health of children and staff in programs for the early childhood can best be protected. Yale-CARES is an interdisciplinary research team from the fields of epidemiology, pediatric infectious diseases, vaccinology, child psychology, economics and politics.

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