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CDC: Secondary transmission of COVID-19 at childcare sites 'limited,' but can disrupt

A CDC analysis found evidence of limited transmission of COVID-19 at childcare facilities in Rhode Island. Photo by Kokab Deen/Pixabay
A CDC analysis found evidence of "limited" transmission of COVID-19 at childcare facilities in Rhode Island. Photo by Kokab Deen/Pixabay

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Secondary transmission of COVID-19 at childcare facilities was "limited," but the longer-term impact significant, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Facilities that reopen in the midst of the pandemic could face "substantial" disruptions in services to comply with quarantining protocols should cases of the virus emerge, the agency said.

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That was the experience at 666 childcare facilities in Rhode Island that reopened after June 1, following three months of COVID-19 lockdown.

In a report released Friday, the CDC noted that four of these facilities had cases of secondary COVID-19 transmission -- when an infected person passes the virus to an uninfected person -- by the end of July.

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Of the 52 confirmed or probable cases of the virus reported at these facilities, 30 involved young children, while 22 were in adults -- 20 teachers and two parents -- the data showed.

All of the secondary transmission of COVID-19 observed in the four affected facilities occurred in the last two weeks of July, "when community transmission in Rhode Island increased," the CDC researchers said.

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In accordance with agency guidelines, 687 children and 166 staff at these facilities had to be quarantined after the cases of the new coronavirus emerged, forcing the temporary closure of 89 classes, the data showed.

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"Despite limited identified secondary transmission, the impact on child care programs was substantial," the agency researchers wrote.

Public health officials in Rhode Island allowed childcare facilities in the state to reopen June 1, following reported declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations relative to other U.S. states, according to the CDC.

To reopen, the Rhode Island Department of Human Services required licensed facilities to reduce enrollment, initially to a maximum of 12 people including staff members, before increasing to a maximum of 20 people June 29, the CDC said.

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All adults were required to wear masks and all children and staff were screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms, according to the agency. Facilities also had to undergo "enhanced cleaning and disinfection" daily based on CDC guidelines.

By the end of July, 666 of 891 licensed facilities in Rhode Island were allowed to reopen, with capacity for 18,945 children, or about three-quarters of the state's childcare program population as of January, the CDC said.

The report does not indicate how many children were enrolled in these programs during the first two months after the reopenings.

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