DES MOINES, Iowa – Kelly Garcia, interim director of the Iowa Department of Public Health and director of Iowa Department of Human Services, sent a letter to school superintendents, child care facilities, and local public health departments informing them of new guidance they will provide for schools and child care facilities.
She said the approach to mitigating COVID-19 should look different than what it looked like last year.
“Our response today does not, and should not, look the same as it did a year ago. In fact, yesterday the CDC announced updated guidance rolling back mask usage for adults. Our guidance is also evolving as we learn more information. This evolution allows people to hone in on what is risky and what is not—which ultimately keeps our collective public health response strong,” Garcia wrote.
“With that in mind, and with acknowledgement that the goal of every educational institution and child care provider is to safeguard children from harm and foster inclusion, today, the Iowa Department of Public Health has adjusted its guidance to recommend that schools and childcare settings approach COVID-19 like other child illnesses,” she added.
Garcia said that this new guidance was developed in consultation with the Iowa Department of Education and underscores the overall health and well-being of children should be the department’s primary focus.
She also encouraged schools and child care facilities to leave decisions about mask usage up to families.
“We are concurrently revising our COVID-19 guidance for school and child care settings, including quarantine guidance, to recommend that while COVID-19 positive and symptomatic children should be excluded, exposed children should no longer be required to stay home, regardless of mask usage. Moreover, when there is a positive case, parents should be given information around exposure to COVID-19 in order to make their own informed decisions regarding risk. To that end, while we acknowledge that some parents may want their child to continue to wear a cloth face covering for reasons that make sense for their family or that child’s individual health condition, we urge schools and child care settings to provide parents and students with the option to make their own decision about mask usage,” Garcia wrote.