During a conference call Friday with about 400 child care industry professionals, Los Angeles County health officials shared an update on the countywide case count, guidance on reporting potential exposures in child care facilities and information about when the vaccine may be available to providers, and a look at the governor’s proposed 2021 budget.
Though the number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County has increased significantly since September, when less than 5 percent of tests were positive, county health officials are now starting to see an improvement from the peak 18.8 percent positive test rate recorded Jan. 13. In San Bernardino, the positive COVID test rate was 12.8 percent at last check.
COVID exposure response
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently eased statewide restrictions due to an increase in ICU bed availability across CA hospitals. But even with the reduction in pandemic restrictions, county health officials urged child care providers to continue keeping group sizes small within their facilities and to report potential exposures. If either a staff member or child in the program tests positive for the virus, providers should alert Community Care Licensing, utilize the toolkit on the Los Angeles County Public Health website, read the ECE exposure management plan, download and complete the COVID cases and contact line and email it to [email protected].
Vaccines are already available to certain essential workers and residents age 65 and older in both Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties but, depending upon availability, child care providers may soon be eligible to receive the vaccine. Los Angeles County health officials said providers can begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine once the 1B option is open, which could be as early as February. San Bernardino County lists child care providers as 1B, which has yet to be given access to vaccines. The availability of the vaccines depends on the allotment California receives from the federal government.
To prove eligibility for the vaccine, providers should present either their paystub, child care ID card, or a letter from their employer indicating they work in child care. The vaccine is not mandatory for child care providers, according to county officials, because the vaccine is available through emergency authorization and is not yet FDA approved.
The state budget proposed by Gov. Newsom currently includes $55 million in pandemic relief for child care providers and parents, according to Child Care Resource Center Government Relations Manager Patrick MacFarlane. California’s Assembly and Senate budget committees held first hearings on the proposal earlier this month. The governor will submit his proposed revisions in mid-May and the legislature must pass a final budget in mid-June. The state budget also includes funds that should become available before the regular budget is passed and signed in June. Action is expected to be taken on the $300 million that was in last year’s budget as a positive trigger once the Federal Stimulus package was signed. The state is waiting to receive those funds and then for CDE to distribute out to the field.
The latest federal COVID-19 relief package includes $1 billion for CA, $300 million of which was spent in last year’s budget. The remaining $700 million will go to support providers during the pandemic and must be spent by October 2022.
County leaders ended the webinar by explaining that the landscape for COVID-19 response is ever-changing and asked child care providers to be prepared for updates on state funding, vaccine eligibility, and future adjustments to state restrictions. Child care providers are urged to follow updates closely from their respective counties to know when they are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Even though the rate of positive cases is improving across our service area, these are still unprecedented times for those in the child care sector. The work providers do to keep children safe and engaged is immensely important and that essential work, which has continued on throughout the pandemic despite the challenges, deserves recognition.