COVID-19 Management in Child Care: Monitoring Absenteeism

Public Health Units (PHUs) are no longer expected to follow-up on individual cases in child care, to conduct extensive investigations to identify contacts or dismiss cohorts if there is a confirmed or presumed positive COVID-19 case in child care.

PHUs should emphasize the following:

  • Effective screening practices
  • Public health measures:  masks, eye protection, hand hygiene and cleaning and disinfecting.  
  • Monitoring population level data (i.e., absenteeism) to determine where additional public health actions or supports are needed within child care.  This will allow PHUs to target interventions in child care settings where there may be Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) lapses.  

Absenteeism and reporting approach:

  • It will be difficult to differentiate absenteeism as a result of COVID-19 transmission/acquisition in child care settings versus community setting or concerned parent not wanting to send their children to child care.
  • Child care operators are not required to notify children if there is a positive COVID-19 cases in their daycare, or if a child or staff is absent due to symptoms associated with COVID-19.  
  • PHUs no longer dismissing cohorts in child care centres.  
  • Child care centres are encouraged to monitor their own absenteeism rates and notify public health at approximately 30% absenteeism above their baseline.  

Establishing a baseline absenteeism in child care:

  • Some level of absenteeism is always expected in child care centres for several reasons, including illness (COVID-19 or otherwise), vacation, personal reasons, or illness of a household member.  This typical level of absenteeism is the number of children and staff who are normally expected to be absent on a given day.  
  • Child care centres are encouraged to use their best judgement in determining the expected baseline absenteeism rate for their setting given the current environment.  This should include planned staff or child absences plus occasional absences due to local COVID-19 activity.  

Determining 30% above baseline:

  • Sudden and/or large increase (approximately 30%) in the number of children and/or staff who are absent is one way of signalling a potential increase in COVID-19 transmission in child care setting and/or in the broader community.
    • 30% increase should be calculated as an ABSOLUTE NUMBER of TOTAL ENROLLMENT AND STAFFING LEVELS for the child care centre at large.  IF absences increase to 30% above baseline, child care operators should contact public health and prepare to notify all affected families and staff.  
    • EXAMPLE:  
      • Child Care Centre has 20 staff and 80 children enrolled for a total of 100 individuals if everyone were present.
      • To calculate the 30%, multiply the TOTAL NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS BY 0.3 (i.e. 100 x 0.3= 30 individuals)
      • This child care typically has 10 individuals absent each day – this is their baseline absenteeism rate.
      • Therefore, child care centre would be expected to contact PHU and notify the child care community via template notification if 40 individuals were absent (BASELINE of 10 + an additional 30 individuals)