SFDPH updates guidance for COVID-19 safety in early childcare settings and youth sports

New guidance will minimize disruptions in childcare while keeping children safe; other updates allow children who are up to date on vaccinations to play indoor sports without a mask
February 03, 2022

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) has updated its COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance for childcare, preschools, early childhood education, and other settings serving children under 5 years of age in order to keep as many children as possible safely participating in these essential services.   

Under the new guidance, effective February 1, children ages 2 and older who have tested positive for COVID-19 may return to childcare after 5 days of isolation with a negative test and no symptoms. Additionally, asymptomatic children of all ages with a close-contact exposure at a program may remain there with regular interval testing. These changes now mirror the requirements in K-12 schools.  

For the time being, children ages 2 and older must still wear masks as an added layer of protection. Under previous guidance, young children in these settings who were positive or exposed to COVID were required to stay home for 10 days. Children under 2 years old are still required to complete a full 10-day isolation because they cannot wear masks safely.  

Widespread community rates of COVID-19 due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant have brought about an increase in cases and exposures in all settings, including early education, which resulted in disruptions in childcare for families. The modifications in guidance, which mirror protocols used in school and other settings for older children and adults, are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while minimizing program closure and absences. Programs may apply more restrictive measures if they so choose.   

“We recognize that the Omicron surge has been especially difficult for families of young children,” said Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip. “These changes in our isolation and quarantine guidance will keep safeguards in place while reducing disruptions in care and learning. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in this age group are mild, and we look forward to soon offering vaccines to this group to add the last layer of protection pending federal and state reviews and approvals.”  

Additionally, guidance specifically for youth sports has been updated to allow players who are “up to date” on their vaccination status (completed primary series and received a booster, if eligible) to remove masks while practicing indoors under specific conditions.  

The childcare guidance is as follows:  

Isolation: For all programs serving children under 5, after a positive COVID-19 test, children over age 2 may return to childcare after 5 days of isolation with a negative repeat test as long as they are asymptomatic. Specifically, children over age 2 may return with a negative test and nap or eat with their masks off with other mitigation measures in place. Efforts should be made to ensure masking adherence in all situations where there are not clear mask exemptions (see Guidance).   
Quarantine: For all programs serving children under 5, after a program-based exposure to a positive COVID-19 case (e.g. another child in the same class or cohort), asymptomatic children may continue to attend the program, regardless of age, with regular interval testing for the duration of quarantine (e.g. at minimum two times within a week at least 36 hours apart). See CDC “Test-to-stay” guidance or CDPH’s group tracing model. This does not apply to home exposures.  
Refer to the Guide to COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine for all staff and volunteers.  

For complete guidance pertaining to childcare and youth sports, see Guidance: Programs for Children and Youth: Childcare, Out-of-school Time Programs and Day Camps