Manitoba child care centers will no longer be required to notify public health of all positive cases or identify close contacts of COVID-19 infections beginning Friday.
The move comes less than two weeks after the province announced similar changes to how schools handle confirmed cases, part of a sweeping pullback by public health officials from contact tracing due to the increase in the number of cases caused by the Omicron variant.
“With Omicron, it’s so infectious, a very short incubation period, it’s not conducive to contact tracing, certainly not the way we used to do it,” said Dr Brent Roussin, administrator in provincial public health chief, at a press conference on Wednesday. .
“Children or staff exposed to COVID-19 in a daycare and school setting may continue to attend the daycare and school if they remain asymptomatic,” Roussin said.
Child care centers will continue to monitor absenteeism rates and the number of positive test results, and may notify public health if they see an increase in cases within a cohort.
Public health will continue to monitor the total number of cases confirmed by PCR tests or other laboratory tests at daycares, and may contact a facility if it sees more cases beyond what is happening in the community. , Roussin said.
Authorities are also no longer recommending that child care centers issue notifications about individual confirmed cases. Instead, public health recommends that centers communicate regularly with families about absenteeism rates as well as the number of confirmed cases in the past 14 days.
Although licensed child care centers are no longer required to identify close contacts, Roussin said home child care providers should follow guidelines for all Manitobans, which advise confirmed cases of COVID-19 to notify their close contacts.
Individual case management was rendered inefficient by Omicron’s high transmissibility, Roussin said.
“So it’s not really about reducing it. It just won’t be effective even if we try to do that,” he said.
For Taylor Owen, the news has her wondering if she should continue to send her child, too young to be vaccinated, to daycare.
“Honestly, my heart kind of dropped out,” Owen said.
As a parent, Owen says she relies on daycare notifications to gauge how things are going.
“Not receiving case notifications or being told that your child is a close contact is a bit alarming. In fact, really alarming.”
Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Child Care Association, says she has mixed reactions to the decision.
“I think daycares were fighting a losing battle, trying to keep up with all the contact tracing right now,” Kehl said.
The changes also provide consistency for parents, aligning with school reporting practices.
“The fear will be, will cases now skyrocket even more in child care centres?” Kehl said.
“Will staffing shortages increase further in early learning and child care programs?”
According to a survey released by University of Manitoba researchers earlier this month, 82% of high-staff child care centers (those with 14 or more staff) had at least one staff member who tested positive or isolated in reason to be a loved one make contact.
This number was 53% in centers with less than 14 employees and 10% in family daycares.