The following is an epidemiologist’s summary of the 8/21/20 CDC report on Rhode Island daycare COVID transmission.

Punchline: if you follow strict guidelines, daycares can operate with minimal spread.

On June 1, Rhode Island opened up daycares with strict guidelines.

As of July 31, 666 of 891 (75%) programs were approved to reopen, with a capacity for 18,945 children. This represents 74% of the state’s January 2020 childcare program population.

So, from June 1 to July 31, what happened in terms of COVID19 cases and spread?

  • VERY few cases: 33 confirmed cases and 19 probable cases in the entire state.
  • Among the 52 cases, 58% were children and 42% were adults.
  • 39 (75%) cases occurred from mid- to late July, when incidence in the state was increasing.
  • 4 daycare programs had spread beyond a single case. 20 programs had a single case with no secondary transmission.

The 4 programs with spread basically did not follow state guidelines:

  • 1st program: 10 confirmed cases (five children, four staff members, and one parent).
  • 2nd program: 3 confirmed cases were identified from a single classroom.
  • 3rd program: 2 cases with symptom onset dates indicating potential transmission; however, no epidemiologic link was identified.
  • 4th program: 2 cases (one staff member and one child). The staff member moved among all the classrooms, exposing adults and children in the entire program, which was subsequently closed.

Translation: Non-pharmaceutical public health interventions work! Especially when community transmission is down. The cases slightly increased as community spread increased, but this is expected. The key is to ensure that daycares and schools are not creating NEW hotspots.

The following guidelines seemed to work to reduce spread in daycare:

  1. Reduced enrollment (initially max 12 persons; increased to 20 on June 29)
  2. Stable groups (staff and students did not switch between groups) in physically separated spaces
  3. Universal use of masks for adults
  4. Daily symptom screening of adults and children
  5. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection

Hope this helps while making daycare decisions!

Link to CDC study: