Lessons we’ve been learning about managing COVID now that community transmission levels are rising
In each wave of the pandemic, early learning and care centres have found themselves at the forefront of the COVID response.
As essential workers, our teams have had to shoulder the responsibility of keeping children and each other safe while learning about new variants, changing government rules and health advice and reassuring worried families.
Victoria bore the brunt of the Alpha variant and NSW and Victoria have experienced the biggest impacts from Delta and Omicron (so far).
Our centre teams have shared data, information and their personal, individual experiences as we’ve worked to understand impacts to better manage in-centre positive cases and make changes to the controls we are using to lower transmission as much as possible.
After reviewing many hundreds of cases of COVID, and consulting with our teams from 145 centres that had to deal with in-centre cases, we know the following:
- Most transmission is between adults and happens inside
- Transmission of the virus is mostly airborne
- Family grouping inside increases the risk of transmission
- Educators who don’t wear masks (correctly) catch COVID and those who do, don’t
- Staff rooms are a high risk location for transmission, particularly because they are often small with poor ventilation and people are taking off their masks to eat and drink
The good news is that these are all things every centre team can control.
So, here’s what we are doing to lower the risk in our centres where community transmission levels are high:
- Move to outside drop-off and pick-up and keep the number of adults coming inside the centre to an absolute minimum - and that they are masked when they do.
- No matter the weather – air circulation is key. Rooms must be ventilated – so keep windows and doors open as much as possible and use fans, HEPA filters and air-conditioners to move and clean air.
- Move as much learning and play outside as possible
- We know wearing a mask significantly lowers our chances of catching COVID – and we make sure we wear them correctly and wash or replace them regularly.
- Staff rooms are being closed or centres have strict rules about ventilation and just one person in the space at a time – or better still eat and drink outside.
Small decisions and thoughtful behaviour really do make the difference.
Goodstart is sharing these insights with federal and state governments and with the early learning and care sector as we want all children to have the best possible start in life.
We cannot stop COVID, that is clear, but teams have successfully limited its spread. There is no one control that will work, it is instigating them all based on the centre environments. Each member of a team needs to take personal responsibility to instigate controls, and teams need to work together minimise the risks.