Tracking COVID-19 cases in Texas childcare facilities and school programs

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just one day after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) said it will post data on COVID-19 cases at licensed childcare centers, local advocates and daycare owners are assessing the challenges and the benefits.

In just a few weeks the doors will open at Mainspring Schools. For many parents, the concerns are a lot different this time around.

“When we speak to them about their concerns coming back, their number one question is what are the precautions put in place to protect their child,” said Jason Gindele, executive director of Mainspring Schools.

The school has a series of COVID-19 safety protocols in place, but Gindele says new data provided on the HHSC website adds an extra layer of reassurance for parents. Families will be able to see a county-by-county breakdown of self-reported cases from childcare centers and before and after-school programs across the state.

“Having that data be public is important, and that’s not only for families but for the staff—making sure there is full transparency inside the organization and outside the organization,” Gindele said.

A quick snapshot of about 61 Travis County childcare centers and programs with data on the site, shows since March, less than 80 employees and less than 35 children enrolled in those programs had COVID-19.

To access the data, you need to download an Excel spreadsheet on the HHSC website. Here’s a snapshot of what it looks like (HHSC Website)

Cathy McHorse is the vice president of Success by 6, United Way for Greater Austin. She is also part of the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Child Care Task Force. She says the data is promising and transparency is key.

“We do see that it is typically impacting adults more than children and in most cases, there has only been one or two cases in a child care program since March,” McHorse said.

But some daycare providers and advocates worry about the challenges they might encounter when using the site, including the stigma surrounding positive cases. There is also a concern that trends aren’t readily available through the data.

“We don’t really have a good way of comparing when we see cases, do we know what those childcare programs were doing to mitigate risks,” explained McHorse.

This means it is important for childcare providers to follow local health authority guidelines.

A HHSC spokesperson tells KXAN that childcare providers should continue to follow the notification requirements outlined in minimum standards to ensure the health and safety of the children in care. Minimum standards requires notification of communicable diseases to parents, HHSC, their local health authority and DSHS. Childcare providers should also continue to follow the sinimum standards, the emergency rules, CDC guidance and the Open Texas Checklist for Child Care Operations.

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