ST. CLOUD -- The surge of the Omicron variant has child care providers entering perhaps the most challenging phase of the pandemic.

With kids having to quarantine more and more due to coming into contact with COVID-19, it's causing a major disruption for families.

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Earlier this week the Minnesota Department of Human Services developed a new policy no longer requiring children and staff who are considered close contact to quarantine.

Chad Dunkley is the CEO of New Horizon Academy. He says this new policy gives child care providers more control.

They are giving providers additional flexibility to make decisions about their own quarantines though they are still strongly recommending providers follow health guidance.

Dunkley says within their organization they plan to follow the new state quarantine guidelines which limits quarantine periods to five days with kids able to return with a negative COVID test.

As for testing, Dunkley says they recently got a limited supply of COVID-19 rapid tests for families.

We did get a significant supply of tests which we sent to our schools. If families are unable to locate their own, we will supply a test as long as supplies last for our families.

Dunkley says he would like to see the state get to a point where testing is more accessible child care families and more affective for kids who are under two-years old.

He says because of the new COVID variant, there is also some pressure by the CDC for providers to issue more masking policies for their preschool and toddler age kids.

I know early childhood providers are reluctant to do this. Young children learn a lot from facial expressions and they have a difficult time wearing masks all day long. We personally think that's too much for them.

Dunkley says he knows this latest wave in cases is putting a strain on families, but they are doing what they can to make sure their facilities remain open for families and continue to be a safe environment for kids and staff.


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