RICHMOND, Va. — Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) said Virginia should move to create strategies for childcare facilities that don't include closing schools nor quarantining children due to COVID exposures after she saw a CBS 6 Problem Solvers report detailing the frustrations of some working families with the guidance.
"I didn't know until I saw your story that they were still dealing with recurrent closures from COVID and quarantines," Dunnavant, an OBGYN physician, said. "It made me feel in my gut what I used to feel when I didn't have childcare as a working mom. The most panicking, terrifying thing you can ever face, especially when it's unpredictable."
Francesca Purcell, a mother of three who runs her own business, said after five instances of one of her kids being quarantined because of COVID exposure at school she had "never been so stressed."
"When is this going to end? It feels like a moving target," Purcell said at the time.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommended children under the age of two be quarantined for 10 days because they cannot wear a mask and they remain unvaccinated.
For children between the ages of two and five in daycare, VDH recommends a five-day quarantine because they can wear a mask at school for five additional days.
In a previous Problem Solvers story, State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene said the guidelines existed to protect potentially vulnerable people who might be exposed to COVID-positive kids.
He said he would not change the guidelines.
But, after seeing our story, Sen. Dunnavant contacted Dr. Greene, subject matter experts on COVID, and other state leaders with concerns.
"Different populations have different risk and the juvenile population is at such incredibly low risk," Dunnavant said. "There are strategies that we can create that identify childcare, preschool, these entities as vital infrastructure and that we look at age-appropriate risk management procedures that don't include closing the schools or quarantining."
After hearing from Dunnavant, the heads of the Department of Labor and Industry, and the Department of Education, Dr. Greene made changes, including making it clear to daycare facilities that they would not lose their license for straying from the CDC guidelines.
"I also have it on authority from the DOE that their licensure is in no way at risk for not adhering precisely to CDC guidelines on quarantine," Greene said.
He is now recommending anyone, including kids, who tested positive for COVID does not need to be quarantined due to exposure for six months.
That is different from the CDC recommended 90-day window.
"There is evidence to show that immunity after the disease has been shown to last for six to eight months," Greene said.
Greene also said "the first thing we did is make it very clear on our website that our guidelines are guidelines and that daycare facilities and childcare facilities may and should consider other things than just the disease prevalence in the community when they pick their quarantine and attendance policies."
"Childcare facilities should consider multiple factors including education loss and emotional well-being of children, and the needs of the family served when they cannot attend childcare," Green said.
Dunnavant said she will keep pushing for changes, and she believes the state will come up with a solution that working families with small children will be happy about.
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