New state guidance and information is rolling out daily from Governor Cooper’s office, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), and the NC General Assembly. We will keep this page updated with what is relevant for early childhood. New updates will show at the top of the page. 

NCECF Posts on COVID-19

View More News on COVID-19

September Updates:

Child Care Portal to Shut Down 9/25

From DCDEE:
The Emergency Child Care Portal for Emergency Child Care Subsidy Attendance and Employee Bonus Pay Attendance will be shut down on Friday, September 25, 2020, at 9:00pm.
  • If you provided emergency child care during the service months of April and May 2020 and have not yet entered attendance for children or staff members, you MUST enter the attendance before 9:00pm on Friday, September 25, 2020, in order to be paid for the services provided.
  • If you have already submitted your attendance for children and staff and have received accurate payment, no action is needed at this time.
  • If you have submitted your attendance for children and staff and there were errors in your payment due to any children or staff not added to the rosters for April and May, 2020, please contact the Subsidy Services Section at 919-814-6380 to receive assistance with rectifying your payment.
Should you have any questions about this communication, please contact the Subsidy Services Section at 919-814-6380.

New App to Slow COVID Spread

NCDHHS announced the launch of a COVID-19 Exposure Notification app called SlowCOVIDNC. The app will help North Carolinians slow the spread of the virus by alerting them when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is anonymous and does not collect, store or share personal information or location data. The more people that use the app, the better it works.

SlowCOVIDNC leverages Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System (ENS) to alert users who have the app if they have been in close contact with an individual who later tests positive for COVID-19. It is voluntary to download and use and designed to enhance the state’s existing contact tracing efforts. The app completed Beta testing earlier this month and can now be downloaded for free through the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. The app is available in English and Spanish.

To learn more about SlowCOVIDNC and to download the app, visithttps://www.covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc, which also includes an FAQ.

Elementary-School Students Can Return to In-Person Learning Oct 5th

From DHHS:

Today, Governor Cooper announced that schools can open under a Plan A option of in-person instruction for all kindergarten – 5th grade students, effective October 5th, 2020. This decision was made based on several weeks of stable COVID-19 trends, continued low virus spread in school settings, and current scientific evidence about the virus and younger children. This decision recognizes the importance of in-person learning for our youngest students, supports working families, and provides children with the opportunity to access other critical services provided in schools, including meals, regular physical activity, and social interaction.

In addition to the requirements outlined the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit, schools that consider reopening under Plan A for their younger students are strongly encouraged to implement recommended strategies for social distancing and minimizing exposure, such as cohorting teacher and students. 

Additionally, if schools operate under Plan A for their K – 5th students, it is strongly recommended that they operate school transportation under Plan B health and safety requirements to ensure density reduction in a more confined space like a school bus.

In order to support families, school leaders, and local health leaders stay up-to-date on public health guidance for schools as they evolve, we have also updated our frequently asked questions document.

Information about the Plan A option for elementary schools has been added to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit. The toolkit and FAQ document will be available in Spanish by the week of September 21st, 2020. In the interim, key points below in Spanish and in English include:

  • Beginning October 5th, elementary schools (K – 5th grade) can operate under Plan A. A partir del 5 de octubre, las escuelas primarias (K – 5o grado) pueden operar bajo el Plan A.
  • School transportation should continue to operate with limited density and take social distancing measures. El transporte escolar debe continuar operando con densidad limitada y tomar medidas de distanciamiento social.
  • At this time, middle and high schools (6th – 12th grade) may operate under Plan B or Plan C, only. En este momento, las escuelas medias y secundarias (6 – 12 o grado) solo pueden operar bajo el Plan B o el Plan C.

Plan A may not be the right plan for all districts. Those districts choosing to move their elementary schools to Plan A will need time to prepare so that they can meet the strong health and safety guidelines required. And families will need to consider their own family’s health risk when making a decision about in-person vs remote learning. Regardless of the plan a district chooses, every family should have the option for full-time remote learning. 

Key Resources

Child Care Monitoring Visits Restarting This Month

Beginning in March 2020, DCDEE suspended monitoring visits, other than investigations of complaints and investigations of child maltreatment. As time progressed DCDEE began to conduct additional visits, including but not limited to consultation and temporary time period visits to child care facilities. Effective September 2020, DCDEE will resume conducting all monitoring visits to child care facilities. By the end of 2020, DCDEE will ensure all child care programs have received an annual visit to monitor compliance with child care requirements. DCDEE is working to limit the time its staff are in your child care programs, including a limited monitoring plan. In order to accomplish this, you may be asked to send information to your child care consultant in advance of or after the visit to reduce the time the consultant is in your program. DCDEE representatives will at all times adhere to the three Ws: Wash, Wear and Wait and will respect any health and safety protocols your facility has in place. 
 

Updates to ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit

DCDEE has updated the ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit to reflect requirements from Executive Order 163, which went into effect on Friday, September 4, 2020 at 5:00pm.  
  • On page 7 – “Cloth Face Coverings”
    • Requires children ages 5 years and older to wear face coverings in child care settings
    • Encourages face coverings for children ages 2 and up to 5 provides new guidance
    • Notes that younger children may be unable to wear a face covering properly, particularly for an extended period of time, and that providers can prioritize having younger children wear face coverings at times when it is difficult to maintain 6 feet distance (e.g., during pick-up/drop-off)
  • On page 10 – “Transportation”
    • Requires children ages 5 years and older to wear face coverings on child care transportation
The updated guidance clarifies that school-age children five (5) years or older who are in kindergarten or above are required to wear face coverings when they are or may be within six (6) feet of another person, unless a family member states that an exception applies for the child. NCDHHS recognizes that some five-year-old children attending child care programs are not yet in kindergarten. For these children, it is recommended that they wear face coverings if they can reliably wear, remove, and handle masks following Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. The face covering guidance applies to children who are on site at the child care facility, as well as on transportation vehicles that are regulated by the State of North Carolina.
 
The guidance also references CDC information that younger children may be unable to wear a face covering properly, particularly for an extended period of time. In these cases, child care program staff can prioritize having children wear face coverings at times when it is difficult for children to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others (e.g., during pick-up or drop-off, when standing in line). Additionally, the guidance references strategies that child care providers and/or families can use to assist children with becoming comfortable with wearing face coverings.
 
Updates to the guidance can be found on page 7 and page 10 of the ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit.

Child Care for School-Aged Children

From Child Care Services Association

The Child Care Commission approved emergency rules in August to allow public schools to contract with entities such as the YMCA or YWCA, Parks and Recreation Departments, Boys & Girls Clubs and other nonprofits to serve as remote learning facilities (…) To help public schools and community-based organizations with contracting for child care pursuant to the Child Care Commission’s emergency rules, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has publicly posted sample contracts, FAQs, and guidance for sanitation standards. A child care hotline (1-888-600-1685) is operating statewide to help families find child care.

August Updates:

Collecting Data on Availability of Slots for School-Aged Children

As most North Carolina schools have now resumed classes for the 2020-2021 school year, DCDEE is seeking to collect updated data about the availability of slots for school-age children in child care.
 
DCDEE is requesting that all operating child care facilities respond to the Survey on the Availability of School-Age Care  no later than Wednesday, August 26, 2020, at 2pm.
  • If your facility is currently closed and you are unsure about when the facility will reopen, please DO NOT respond to this survey.
  • Facilities that are closed and have a planned reopening date please DO respond to this survey.

Child Care Subsidy Payments to be Based on Attendance as of September; Parent Fees No Longer Covered by DCDEE

As NC has progressed into Stage 2 of the pandemic and more employers have reopened, DCDEE plans to begin using the regular subsidy payment structure beginning with September 2020 service month. This means that parent fees will no longer be waived and that payment to open facilities will be solely based on the true attendance entered into the NC FAST Provider Portal.
 
Beginning with the service month of September 2020, each family receiving subsidized child care with a parent fee assigned will be responsible for paying this parent fee directly to their chosen child care facility. DCDEE will no longer cover the cost of these parent fees. Facilities are also asked to enter true attendance into the NC FAST Provider Portal and payment for services will be calculated based on this attendance only. There will no longer be a differential amount calculated. Facilities who remain closed will not receive payment for any subsidized children.
 
DCDEE is also working to address several concerns related to COVID-19 including payment when a facility is closed due to quarantine, when a subsidized child is not able to attend a facility due to being quarantined, and school age children attending facilities full time now that school has started for the year.  Specific guidance will be issued to all subsidized facilities about recording attendance in the NC FAST Provider Portal for the month of September and future months that will address these concerns. 

Families are receiving a written notice about this change via mail. Subsidized child care providers are also receiving notification of this change via email. For additional information, please review the COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policies.

 
If there are any questions regarding the information contained in this communication, please contact the DCDEE Subsidy Services Section at 919.814.6380.

Read to Achieve Guidance for School Re-Opening

Read to Achieve Guidance for 2020-21 School Year, from DPI Deputy Superintendent of Innovation, Dr. David Stegall, and Director of K-3 Literacy, Dr. Tara Galloway. 

Mental Health Support for Educators

NCDHHS is expanding the Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) to serve NC’s teachers, school personnel and their families. With schools opening in-person and remotely across the state under new health and safety procedures, NCDHHS and the NC Psychological Foundation can provide these personnel with mental health and resilience supports through Hope4Healers. Hope4Healers is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week. When teachers, school personnel or family members call the helpline, they will speak to someone who is trained to listen and offer support. They then will be contacted within about a day by a licensed mental health professional for a free, confidential, short-term follow-up by phone or video chat. NCDHHS launched the Hope4Healers Helpline earlier this year, building off the longstanding Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463) that provides mental health and resilience supports for all North Carolinians. Hope4Healers expansion for educators press release.

K-12 School and Child Care Updates

For K-12 Schools:

For Early Care and Education:

Summary of Recent Child Care Updates

 
Shipments of Personal Protective Equipment & Cleaning Supplies
In late July 2020, DCDEE announced it would provide each open child care provider with a 4 to 8 week supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.  DCDEE has ordered the following supplies: touchless thermometers with batteries, 10 reusable cloth face coverings per child care employee, disposable masks, bleach solution, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer.  The thermometers and cloth face coverings are one-time purchases, as these are reusable items. The supply of disposable masks, bleach solution, and paper towels is expected to last for about 8 weeks, while the supply of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer is expected to last about 4 weeks. How long supplies last will vary by center depending on usage.
 
Child care centers and family child care homes should expect to receive most of these supplies in multiple shipments over the next few weeks to cover the months of August and September. All shipments will be delivered to the address of the child care facility as recorded in the DCDEE Regulatory database.  
 
To date, many child care providers have confirmed receipt of the touchless thermometers and batteries. DCDEE has received notification from the vendor supplying disinfectant wipes that these supplies are in short supply and are on backorder; anticipated delivery timeframe is late September/early October.
 
DCDEE is currently working to place another order to cover the months of October and November 2020.  
If there are questions about the PPE and/or cleaning supply shipments, please contact Arlette Lambert at (919) 703-5262 or Laura Hewitt at (919) 703-7916.


Operational Grant Information
DCDEE has provided monthly operational grants to child care providers that were open in April, May, and June. DCDEE will continue to provide operational grants for the month of July to licensed, private child care facilities that are open or have reopened for all or part of July. The operational grants are designed to help providers cover monthly fixed operating costs during these this month of the COVID-19 crisis, recognizing that revenues from parent fees are significantly lower as non-essential workers have kept their children home with them.

Who will receive operational grants?
Private child care programs who are open or have reopened for all or part of July will be eligible to receive an operational grant for that month. In order to qualify for the grant, DCDEE required providers to submit either an Emergency Child Care Provider application (between April 1 and May 8, 2020) to remain open OR a Reopening Application, as well as complete a COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey to report daily whether they were open or closed and to report occupancy/vacancy for children.

How much will child care facilities receive from the operational grants?
Private child care centers will receive between $500 and $30,000 per month. Private family child care homes will receive between $359 and $2,500 per month. The amount of the individual grants will vary based on the following factors:
  • Total number of children served prior to COVID-19:  Programs serving more children will receive larger grants.
  • Star rating:  Programs with a higher star rating will receive larger grants because of the higher cost to meet higher standards.
  • Infant toddler enrollment:  Programs serving infants and toddlers will receive larger grants to account for higher staffing and fixed costs associated with caring for infants and toddlers.
  • Serving subsidy children:  Programs that have served subsidy children in the past 12 months will receive smaller grants than programs that do not serve families and children receiving child care subsidy. Federal Child Care Development Funds are intended to increase access to quality care for families and children with low incomes. However, because of the unique challenges programs are facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, all programs will receive some level of grant support.
  • Subsidy density (the percentage of children enrolled who receive child care subsidy):  Because DCDEE is continuing to stabilize child care subsidy monthly payments to child care providers based on February enrollment, programs that have higher percentages of children on subsidy are getting more of their typical monthly revenue covered than programs that have lower percentages of children on subsidy and rely more heavily on private fees from parents. Therefore, programs with lower percentages of children on subsidy will receive larger grants.
When will the operational grants be awarded?
If the private child care facility was open prior to July 1, 2020, the operational grant will be issued in mid-August.  

If the child care facility reopened in July, the operational grants will be prorated based on the date of reopening and will be issued beginning mid-August.  Please remember that deposits can take up to five business days to reach provider’s accounts.

How can child care facilities find out how much their grant awards will be?
To find out the amount of the operational grant awarded to your facility, please call the appropriate telephone number listed below. When contacting the Division of Child Development and Early Education, please have the facility name and license number available:
  • If the child care facility is in Alamance through Forsyth Counties, contact Arlette Lambert at 919.703.5262.
  • If the child care facility is in Franklin through Orange Counties, contact Laura Hewitt at 919.703.7916. 
  • If the child care facility is in Pamlico through Yancey Counties, contact Theresa Rodersheimer at 919.703.6947.
  • If the child care facility would like to receive the grant amount via email, please send that request to dcdee.communications@dhhs.nc.gov.
Updated ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit
DCDEE has updated the  ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit to reflect new changes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other updates.  Please pay special attention to the following updates:
  • Page 4 – provides new guidance on Exposures – what to do with children and staff who have been in close contact with someone who screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms or develops symptoms during the day
  • Page 5 and 13 – updates Return to Child Care guidance for people who have been in close contact with someone with symptoms of COVID-19 or diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Page 11 – provides link to NCDHHS Interim Guidance for Safe Application of Disinfectants
  • Page 12 – updates symptom screening question #1 to ask about whether people have been in close contact in the last 14 days with someone with symptoms of COVID-19 or diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Page 12 – clarifies that if a child has COVID-19 symptoms, household members (i.e., siblings) should also quarantine for 14 days since last exposure to symptomatic person, unless the symptomatic person is cleared as a result of a negative test for COVID-19
If you have questions about these updates, please reach out to your Child Care Health Consultant.
 
Subsidized Child Care Information
Many people have been impacted by COVID-19 and DCDEE wants to make sure that families in North Carolina do not experience a negative impact on their subsidy services. Therefore, DCDEE is not requiring families to pay their parent fees for August 2020. The State will make the parent fee payments to open providers as part of the regular subsidy payment for August. Each family has received a notice by mail informing them of this short-term change.

Also, DCDEE will only pay providers who are open in August and the subsidy payment will continue to be based on March payments for February services.

For additional information, please review the COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policies.
For questions, please contact the Subsidy Section at DCDEE at 919.814.6380. 


Options for School-Age Care
With the start of the new school year fast approaching, school districts are reopening under either a Plan B (hybrid) or Plan C scenario (full remote learning). DCDEE recognizes that families are searching for a safe place for their children to engage in online learning during the typical school day while they are at work.

In North Carolina, any setting where children receive care where they do not reside is governed by federal law (which sets minimum health and safety requirements), state law (which further defines health, safety, program, and staff requirements), and state regulations. State law defines child care to be any program that serves 3 or more unrelated children and operates more than 4 hours a day. As the regulatory agency for licensed child care providers, NCDHHS has been exploring options for families who need child care during periods of remote learning for their school-aged children who are enrolled in public schools (ages 5 to 12).
Those options are as follows:
  • Option 1 – Licensed Child Care: NCDHHS has set up a child care hotline (1-888-600-1685) where families can call to get information about local options for infants through children age 12. The hotline is open Monday through Friday 8AM to 5PM. When families call the hotline, child care referral specialists will provide referrals to licensed child care programs that are open and have vacancies for the age of the child(ren) for whom care is being requested. As of the beginning of August, there are currently about 30,000 slots available for school-age children in licensed child care across the state, but availability varies from community to community. Flyers to promote the hotline are available to be shared with parents and families in English and Spanish.
  • Option 2 – Remote Learning option at Public Schools: Public schools across North Carolina have the option to provide a remote learning environment to school-age children on site in their public school buildings during periods of remote learning, overseen by support staff or a third party. Pursuant to NCGS 110-86(2), Public Schools are exempt from the definition of child care, and therefore exempt from licensure requirements. If public schools choose to provide a remote learning environment for students during the school day in public school buildings, this is considered to be public school and exempt from child care licensure. Similar to operating in-person instruction, schools choosing this option would be responsible for ensuring adequate staff and supports (including but not limited to meals and transportation) and manage any enrollment processes for families. Any care for school-age children provided in a public school building would be subject to the health and safety requirements of the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K – 12)guidance under Plan B.
  • Option 3 – Remote Learning option at Community Based Organizations through contracts with Public Schools: At this time, child care rules require that community-based organizations (e.g., Parks and Recreation programs, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, non-profits) have a license from the NCDHHS Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) in order to provide school-age child care. On August 5, 2020, DCDEE brought a rule-change recommendation to the Child Care Commission to allow public schools to enter into contractual agreements with community based organizations to establish Remote Learning Facilities for school-age children which would meet the definition of “Public Schools” under NCGS 110-86(2). Under this option, the remote learning supervision and support would be provided on-site at the community-based organization. The Child Care Commission has voted to adopt the emergency rules, and our expectation is that this rule change will become effective August 13.
NCDHHS currently recommends that families call the NCDHHS child care hotline (1-888-600-1685) if they are seeking daily support for their children aged 12 or below, until other options are available to them locally.

State of Emergency Rules for School Age Care
The NC Child Care Commission has adopted emergency rules and is proposing temporary rules to comply with the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to enact protective measures to help prevent the spread of the disease. This disease can result in serious illness or death to the public. The public health emergency, and the resulting closure of public schools, has impacted North Carolina school-age children and their families. To the degree that it is able, the North Carolina Child Care Commission is implementing emergency rules in order to give public schools options to provide care outside, or in addition to, the traditional school building, as well as give licensed facilities some flexibility to create and fill additional slots for school-age children to receive care while attending remote/online learning programs.  The emergency rules will become effective on August 13, 2020 and will be published in the NC Register on September 1, 2020.

Pursuant to G.S. 150B-21.1A when the Commission adopts emergency rules, they must simultaneously begin the temporary rulemaking process to replace the emergency rules and hold a public hearing on the rules to solicit comments. The comment period will be August 12 through September 2. The public hearing will be held on August 19, 2020, from 9:00 am until 10:30am.  The meeting will be held by WebEx and the public is invited. Additional information regarding how to participate in the public hearing will be forthcoming.

Interim COVID-19 Reopening Policies for ALL NC Pre-K Programs Now Available
 
On August 3, 2020, DCDEE released its Interim COVID-19 Reopening Policies for NC Pre-K Programs, which applies to all NC Pre-K providers – regardless of whether they are located in in public schools or nonpublic or private sites, and provides information on the following:
  • Goals for the 2020-21 NC Pre-K Program Year
  • Mode of Classroom Instruction
  • Health & Safety Guidance
  • Remote Learning Requirements
  • Payment Policies
  • Reporting Requirements
Sites should contact their Contracting Agency if they have questions about the guidance.  Contracting Agencies should contact their NC Pre-K Program Policy Consultant with questions about this guidance.

Extensions for Health Assessments and Immunizations

A new Executive Order issued today by Governor Roy Cooper and a State Health Director Memo issued by State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Tilson suspend but do not waive documentation deadlines for proof-of-immunization and health assessment requirements for school and child-care facilities. Students and families will receive additional time to address access to care disruptions they may have experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Families are strongly encouraged to obtain the required immunizations for their children on a timely basis. Extending these deadlines by several weeks will allow more time to work with families, providers, local health departments and schools on facilitating access to needed immunizations and health assessments.
 
The Executive Order and State Health Director Memo will apply to students enrolled in public, private, or religious educational institutions, including child care facilities and K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities. The Order also extends the deadline for each child entering a North Carolina public school for the first time to submit proof of a health assessment.
 
In typical years, proof of required immunizations and health assessments were required within 30 days of the first date of attendance of school. After the 30 days, children are to be excluded from school until the family provides documentation of requirements. This year, the 30-day ‘grace period’ for all students will begin on October 1, 2020. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) similarly delayed immunization requirements in September 2018 during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
 
Whether children are home-schooled, attend school in-person or by remote learning, they are required by state law to be immunized based on their age for certain vaccinations as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More information on North Carolina’s requirements for vaccines can be found on the NCDHHS website.
 
NCDHHS’s North Carolina Immunization Branch also offers comprehensive guidance on immunization recommendations, as well as, advice for families on navigating access issues during COVID-19.

NC Pre-K Reopening Guidance

From NCDHHS:

Thank you for your patience and your support as we finalized the Interim COVID-19 Reopening Policies for NC Pre-K Programs. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that NC Pre-K children throughout the state continue to benefit from enriched learning opportunities as we begin the 2020-2021 program year. We understand this has been a very challenging time for everyone, and we continue to be encouraged by how schools, child care programs, and teachers are responding to the needs of children, families and their communities.

The guidance, Interim COVID-19 Reopening Policies for NC Pre-K Programsapplies to all NC Pre-K Providers – regardless of whether they are located in in public schools or nonpublic/private sites. NC Pre-K Contracting Agencies must provide this guidance to all NC Pre-K sites and NC Pre-K teaching staff no later than August 7, 2020.

We know that our children learn best when they have the opportunity to be together with their classmates and teachers. COVID-19 has presented many challenges to the way we work, live, learn and socialize with each other. Our goals for NC Pre-K seek to provide as much stability and proven in-person instruction as possible as we navigate through the pandemic.

  • All NC Pre-K students receive the benefit of fully in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible.
  • All parents/guardians are offered the option of in-person instruction for the full program year.
  • Recognizing the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning will be available for all NC Pre-K students as an option of last resort and used as sparingly as possible (such as during time-limited school entry periods where schools are in remote learning only, during necessary quarantine periods.)
  • All remote learning offered will meet standard quality measures that support children’s healthy development and engage families in their children’s learning.

The NC Pre-K Re-Opening Guidance was developed using information collected via surveys from previous months; as well as feedback from various stakeholders, and continued collaboration with other state agencies regarding their plans for the 2020-21 school year. In particular, DCDEE partnered with Duke University to study the experiences of NC Pre-K lead teachers, teacher assistants, administrators, and contracting agencies during the unprecedented experience of remote learning across NC Pre-K classrooms. In July 2020, the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy published a report analyzing the survey responses of over 3,000 NC Pre-K teachers, which was a response rate of approximately 90%. The report highlights the efforts NC Pre-K teachers undertook to suddenly transition to remote learning. This report also identifies areas where NC Pre-K teachers may need more support as they prepare for offering any remote learning in 2020-2021 school year, including:

  • Providing formal guidance and training regarding the adaptation of classroom curriculum for remote learning;
  • Supporting the effective use of video-based communication platforms; and
  • Establishing guidelines and supports for teachers to provide remote learning services regularly throughout the week.

The findings from the July 2020 report are integrated into the guidance that follows here.

This guidance will provide you with information on the following:

(Please be advised that this guidance may be amended by the NC Pre-K state office as needed in accordance with changes in trends related to COVID-19)

  • Goals for the 2020-21 NC Pre-K Program Year
  • Program Year
  • Mode of Classroom Instruction
  • Health & Safety Guidance
  • Remote Learning Requirements
  • Payment Policy
  • Reporting Requirements

Please read the Interim COVID-19 Reopening Policies for NC Pre-K Programs guidance thoroughly as it includes pertinent information regarding expectations for NC Pre-K programs and contracting agencies as well as critical reporting deadlines. 

NC Pre-K contracting agencies should direct their questions and concerns regarding this guidance to their assigned NC Pre-K Program Policy Consultant.

NC Pre-K site administrators and teachers should direct their questions and concerns regarding this guidance to their local NC Pre-K Contracting Agency.

DHHS Updates on Testing Locations, Schools, Face Covering Requirements:

30 NEW additions to the community testing events page 

UPDATED guidance:

July Updates:

NC Pre-K Reopening Guidance

DCDEE strongly recommends that in-person NC PreK instruction be provided to any enrolled child if the family chooses that option. However, through September 7, a remote learning only option may be provided. Schools that are opening for in-person instruction for any age child must include their Pre-K classes in their in-person offering. Further guidance regarding remote learning requirements and plans beyond September 7 are forthcoming.

Virtual COVID-19 Town Halls – Spanish and Sign Language Translation Included

NCPTA, in partnership with NCDHHS, will host Virtual Town Halls on Wednesday, July 22nd from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Spanish and Sign Language Interpreters will be provided) and Thursday, July 23​rd​ (Sign Language Interpreter will be provided) from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

The purpose of these Virtual Town Halls is to provide a forum for North Carolina families to hear important updates and information about pertinent information related to COVID-19 numbers in our state, safety precautions needed to support successful school reopenings, and more, from health care professionals. There will also be a Q&A session.

FEATURED PANELISTS Wednesday, July 22nd (Spanish and Sign Language Interpreters will be provided)

  • Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, Duke University Medical Center
  • Susan Gale Perry, Chief Deputy Secretary
  • Dr. Betsey Tilson, NCDHHS State Health Director
  • Rebecca Planchard, NCDHHS Senior Policy Advisor
  • Rogelio Valencia, NCDHHS Latino Ombudsman

Thursday, July 23rd (Sign Language Interpreter will be provided) 

  • Dr. Kenya McNeal-Trice, UNC Health
  • Susan Gale Perry, Chief Deputy Secretary
  • Dr. Betsey Tilson, NCDHHS State Health Director
  • Rebecca Planchard, NCDHHS Senior Policy Advisor

HOW TO REGISTER TO VIRTUALLY ATTEND: If you would like to virtually attend the Virtual Town Halls, you can register via the Eventbrite links listed below.  Prior to the event, registrants will receive the link to access the virtual platforms to view the Town Halls.

GOT QUESTIONS? If you have questions regarding COVID-19 and NC school reopening, NCPTA and NCDHHS would like to hear from you. Your submissions will be used to guide the conversations during the town halls and future community engagement events, and to create a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). You can submit questions at ​https://bit.ly/NCPTAJuly2020TownHallQuestions

Child Care: Parent Fees and Delivery of PPE

July Parent Fees for Subsidized Child Care
DCDEE is not requiring families to pay their parent fees for July 2020. The State will make the parent fee payments to open providers as part of the regular subsidy payment for July. Each family will receive a notice by mail informing them of this short-term change.

Also, DCDEE will only pay providers who are open in July and the subsidy payment will continue to be based on March payments for February services.

For additional information, please review the COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policies.
For questions, please contact the Subsidy Section at DCDEE at 919-814-6380. 
 
Delivery of Personal Protective Equipment and Cleaning Supplies

DCDEE will provide each open provider with a delivery of PPE and cleaning supplies. The inventory of supplies expected include touchless thermometers with batteries, 10 cloth face coverings for each child care employee, disposable masks, bleach solution, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer. Child care centers should expect to receive an 8-week supply of these items in multiple shipments this week.

Updates from DHHS

NEW & UPDATED GUIDANCE: The following resources are now available on the DHHS dashboard.

UPDATED REPORTS: the following reports have been updated and are now available on the dashboard

NEW TESTING SITES: about 45 new CHAMP sites were added to the community testing events page

UPDATED OPERATION HOURS for Vidant testing sites: hours have changed due to the high temperatures.  They are now 11 am – 1 pm and 4 pm – 6 pm. 

NOW AVAILABLE IN SPANISH:

NEW: Video PSAs added here and will be available on the Prevent & Protect toolkit

  • New Vimeo videos are now available for download – the videos with Dr. Tilson and Rogelio on how to properly wear a face covering are here, and also on the Prevent and Protect toolkit

 

New COVID-19 Resources in Spanish

Hoy, el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Carolina del Norte (NCDHHS) lanzó nuevas herramientas en línea para ayudar a los habitants hispanohablantes de Carolina del Norte a determinar si deberían considerar hacerse la prueba de COVID-19 y ayudar a las personas a controlar sus síntomas si dieron positivo o no, o han estado expuesto a COVID-19.

Las nuevas herramientas en línea están destinadas a ayudar a las personas a saber si pueden necesitar una prueba, cómo hacerse una prueba, y cómo controlar sus propios síntomas si se les aconseja que lo hagan. Estas herramientas incluyen:

  • Verificar mis síntomas (Verificar Mis Síntomas) (https://ncdhhs-covid19-dtra.powerappsportals.us/es-ES//), un sitio web público que permite a las personas ingresar sus síntomas para determinar si deberían considerar hacerse la prueba de COVID -19. Si se recomienda una prueba, recibirán un enlace a una lista de sitios de prueba cercanos por correo electrónico o mensaje de texto.
  • Buscador de sitio de prueba COVID-19 (www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace), un sitio web público que permite a las personas ingresar su condado o código postal y acceder a una lista de ubicaciones de sitios de pruebas cercanas en línea. Para ver en español, los usuarios pueden seleccionar español en el cuadro amarillo.
  • Herramienta de Equipo Comunitario COVID-19, un software en línea protegido por contraseña que ayuda a las personas a rastrear sus propios síntomas si el Equipo Comunitario COVID-19 les ha aconsejado que lo hagan.

Puede encontrar materiales promocionales para ayudar a correr la voz en covid19.ncdhhs.gov/preventandprotect. Desplácese hacia abajo para Verificar sus síntomas. Recursos adicionales también están disponibles.

____

Today, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) launched new online tools to help Spanish-speaking North Carolinians to determine if they should consider being tested for COVID-19 and help individuals monitor their symptoms if they have tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19.

The new online tools are intended to help people know if they may need a test, how to get a test and how to monitor their own symptoms if advised to do so. These tools include:   

  • Check My Symptoms (Comprobar Mis Síntomas) (https://ncdhhs-covid19-dtra.powerappsportals.us/es-ES/), a public website that allows people to enter their symptoms to determine if they should consider getting tested for COVID-19. If a test is recommended, they will receive a link to a list of nearby testing sites via email or text.
  • Find My Testing Place (www.ncdhhs.gov/TestingPlace), a public website that allows people to enter their county or ZIP code and access a list of nearby testing site locations online. To view in Spanish, users can select Spanish in the yellow box. 
  • COVID-19 Community Team Outreach (CCTO) Tool, a password-protected online software that helps people track their own symptoms if they have been advised to do so by the COVID-19 Community Team.

Promotional materials to help spread the word are available at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/preventandprotect – scroll down to Check Your Symptoms. Additional resources are also available.

Poisonous Hand Sanitizer Warning for Child Care, Schools

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to consumers and health care providers about hand sanitizer products that are labeled as containing ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but that have tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol (i.e., methyl alcohol or wood alcohol) is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested. As per the FDA news update hyperlinked below, “Methanol is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects. FDA’s investigation of methanol in certain hand sanitizers is ongoing. The agency will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
 
FDA has identified more than two dozen hand sanitizers that are toxic when absorbed through the skin. 
 
Consumers who have been exposed to a hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for the potential toxic effects of methanol poisoning, which can include nausea, vomiting, headaches, blurred vision, permanent blindness, and seizures. Although people of all ages are at risk for methanol poisoning, “young children who accidentally ingest these products and adolescents and adults who drink these products as an alcohol (ethanol) substitute are most at risk.”
 
Please see the full FDA news update on hand sanitizers with methanol for further information.

New DHHS Reopening Guidance for NC Pre-K Programs

FROM NC DHHS: As updated K – 12 public health guidance was announced today that K-12 school buildings can reopen under a Plan B model, we wanted to proactively reach out to NC Pre-K programs.

Key updates to the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit (K-12):

  • Plan B social distancing and density requirements now offer more flexibility for districts to limit the number of people inside school buildings to the extent needed to meet 6 feet social distancing requirements
  • Cloth face coverings are required for all students from Kindergarten through 12th Grade in school and on buses, and for all teachers, school staff, and adult visitors
  • How teachers and staff should interact with each other in the safest ways possible
  • Recommendations provided for physical education, music, and band
  • Remote learning options must be provided for students who are at high-risk for severe disease due to COVID-19, or whose family members are at high-risk

Other important updates:

  • Along with the toolkit, NCDHHS is releasing updated screening guide with detailed and easy-to-follow protocols for the next steps schools should take if a student, teacher, staff member, or adult visitor presents with COVID-19 symptoms, or who discloses exposure to COVID-19, or who shares they tested positive.
  • In addition to the two-month supply of PPE materials already sent out to every public school across the state and detailed in the updated Infection Control and PPE guidance, Governor Cooper announced the shipment of five cloth face coverings for every elementary, middle, and high school student across NC, and for every teacher and school staff member.

The memorandum linked here was issued on June 8th, 2020 jointly between the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Department of Public Instruction. It states that preschool programs located in public schools, including NC Pre-K, EC, Title 1, and Head Start, should follow the Interim Guidance for Child Care Settings, ChildCareStrong, updated frequently. While similar to the K – 12 public health guidance, the child care guidance is better suited for early learning.

However, the memo notes that preschool programs located in public schools may be asked to take additional precautions on their campus, such as social distancing in the cafeteria. Outside of a public school setting, we would not ask very young children to keep 6 feet apart from each other – however, if possible, preschool programs should follow campus-wide health protocols if asked to do so, especially in shared settings like hallways and the cafeteria. Students, families, and staff should consult local restrictions as they plan for the new school year.

New Health and Safety Resources from DHHS

20+ NEW TESTING SITES can be found on the Pop-up Testing Sites page

UPDATED School Clusters report and Ongoing Outbreaks report are now available on the dashboard

UPDATED Risk Factors for Severe Illness report is now available on the dashboard

UPDATED contact tracing numbers are now available on the dashboard

UPDATED FAQs for Schools is now available, in English and Spanish

NEW door signs for child care centers now available in English and Spanish

NEW resources available under Health Care Guidance

Early Learning Reopening Webinar Opportunities

The NC DPI Office of Early Learning is offering a series of reopening webinars to share and discuss considerations, suggestions, and potential strategies for a variety of Pre-K through 2nd Grade topics.

NCDPI-OEL – Supporting Smooth Transitions to Kindergarten in the 2020-2021 School Year  

This webinar will review considerations, suggestions, and potential strategies for planning smooth transitions into kindergarten for children and families as schools reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.

Thursday, July 16 from 9:00-10:00 click here  

Tuesday, July 21 from 2:00-3:00  click here


Supporting Local Coordination and Collaboration for ReOpening Preschool Programs

This session will provide an opportunity to share strategies and resources with other communities and learn what programs are planning to implement as we work together to develop reopening plans.

Wednesday, July 22 @ 12:00 click here

Wednesday, July 22 @ 4:00 click here

Thursday, July 23 @ 12:00 click here

Thursday, July 23 @ 4:00 click here


1st & 2nd Grade Remote Learning Strategies

This webinar will offer resources to support teachers in planning for and providing remote instruction in First and Second Grade settings. Topics covered will include Social Emotional Support, Content Area support, Scheduling Support, and General Considerations.

Friday, July 24 from 9:00-10:00 click here

Monday, July 27th from 1:00-2:00 click here


PK & K Remote Learning Strategies 

This webinar will offer resources to support teachers in planning for and providing remote instruction in PK and Kindergarten settings. Topics covered will include Social Emotional Support, Content Area support, Scheduling Support, and General Considerations.

Tuesday, July 28 from 1:00-2:00 click here

Friday, July 31 from 9:00-10:00 click here


Foundations in the PreK Classroom: Unpacking of Language Development and Communication

This session will provide teachers, coaches, and administrators strategies for supporting child development and implementation of North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development: Language Development and Communications. An “In the Classroom” Guide will be shared with all participants.

Thursday, July 30 from 9:00-10:00 click here

Monday, August 3 from 1:00-2:00 click here 


Best Practices in Kindergarten with COVID Protocols

This session will address strategies Kindergarten teachers can use with Re-opening Plans A or B. Topics will cover how teachers can follow COVID protocols while continuing to use play based learning and developmentally appropriate instruction. Information will also be shared for teacher support resources including planning ideas, scheduling, and structures for success.

Tuesday, August 4 from 1:00-2:00 click here

Friday, August 7 from 9:00-10:00 click here

June Updates:

June 29

K-12 Education

NCDHHS’ guidance for schools reopening is now available in Spanish: https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/guidance/education/Strong-Schools-NC-Public-Health-Toolkit-SPANISH.pdf

COVID-19 Testing

NEW dates have been added to pop-up testing sites. Access the information here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place/pop-testing-sites

COVID-19 Data Dashboard

NCDHHS’s COVID-19 dashboard has been updated with new resources:

The clusters in child care and school settings report will be updated every Tuesday and Friday by 4 pm.

June 26

Mask Requirement Takes Effect

Beginning at 5 p.m. today, people in NC must wear cloth face coverings in public settings – both indoors and outdoors – where staying 6 feet apart from those who are not part of their household is impossible.

June 25

Child Care Reopening

NCDCDEE has released a ChildCareStrongNC Public Health Toolkit with important COVID-19 related guidance. This toolkit contains five sections:
 
1.  Interim Guidance for Child Care Settings
 
Governor Cooper has implemented a three-phased approach to slowly lift restrictions while combating COVID-19, protecting North Carolinians and working together to recover the economy.
 
This guidance is intended to help licensed/regulated child care facilities make informed decisions about COVID-19 and minimize the risk of exposure to both the staff and the children in their care. Health and safety guidance for child care facilities during COVID-19 is outlined in this section. DCDEE asks that particular attention be paid to page 7, where it states that is now required that all workers, all other adults, and children 11 years or older on site wear a face covering when they are or may be within six (6) feet of another person, unless the person (or family member, for a child) states that an exception applies.
 
2. Requirements and Recommendations 
 
Actions that are required for each topic are stated in Executive Order 141 and extended to Executive Order 147 or are in existing child care rules. Actions that are recommended for each topic were developed to protect people in the child care facility to minimize spread of COVID-19.  Facilities are expected to meet all guidance in this document. Specific actions should be tailored to each child care program.
 
3.  Daily Health Screening for COVID-19 for Anyone Entering the Building
 
The person conducing the health screening should maintain 6 feet distance while asking the screening questions.  The questions should be asked of anyone entering the facility or transportation vehicle, including children, staff, family members, or other visitors).
 
4.  Daily Health Screening Log
 
Health screenings should be repeated periodically throughout the day to check for new symptoms developing.
 
5.  Handling Suspected, Presumptive, or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 Flow Chart and 
     Protocol

June 23

Food and Nutrition, Medicaid

NCDHHS released improved online applications for Medicaid and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) to help NC families and county Departments of Social Services (DSS) during the COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina’s online application portal for Medicaid and FNS is called ePASS. New and updated features in ePASS include: 

  • More efficient processing for Medicaid applications
  • Improved look and feel making navigation easier on multiple device types
  • Fewer questions and enabling applicants to only answer questions applicable to them
  • Personalized dashboards with important account information and notifications
  • Guidance placed throughout the site based on frequently asked questions
  • Ability to attach documents easily
  • Links to relevant program information
  • Links to paper applications and voter registration

These improvements will remain in place beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and do not impact previously submitted applications. Questions about an existing application should still be directed to county Departments of Social Services

June 22

Accessing Healthcare and Other Needs

NCDHHS announced that NCCARE360 is now available in all 100 counties. NCCARE360 is a technology platform to coordinate whole-person care, uniting traditional healthcare settings and organizations that address non-medical drivers of health, such as food, housing, transportation, employment and interpersonal safety. 

Now, anyone in North Carolina can request services and be connected to an accountable organization to support their immediate and long-term needs. North Carolinians who need assistance can search NCCARE360’s repository of more than 10,000 local services at nccare360.org/resources, access resources by calling 2-1-1, or complete an online form at nccare360.org/request-assistance. 

Child Care

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) have shared a significant amount of information throughout the past several weeks as North Carolina’s COVID-19 response evolves. To help you navigate all the recent updates and information, a recap has been compiled, along with reminders and resources that are available to you.
 
Updated Interim Health Guidance for Child Care
DCDEE would like to share some important information including new and updated guidance, which is intended to help licensed/regulated child care facilities make informed decisions about COVID-19 and minimize the risk of exposure to both the staff and the children in their care. The latest Interim Health Guidance for Child Care Settings was released on June 15, 2020.
 
DCDEE asks that special attention be paid to the guidance around the use of outdoor sprinklers in child care facilities and exclusion criteria for anyone being monitored for COVID-19 symptoms.
 
Operational Grant Information
DCDEE will provide operational grants to licensed child care facilities that are open for all or part of April, May, and June. The operational grants will help providers cover monthly fixed operating costs during these three months of the COVID-19 crisis, recognizing that revenues from parent fees are significantly lower as non-essential workers have kept their children home with them.
 
Who will receive operational grants?
Child care programs who were open in April or reopen in May or June will be eligible to receive operational grants. In order to qualify for the grant, DCDEE required providers to submit either an Emergency Child Care Provider application to remain open OR a reopening application, as well as complete a COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey to report daily whether they were open or closed and to report occupancy/vacancy for children.
 
How much will child care facilities receive?
Child care centers will receive between $500 and $30,000 per month. Family child care homes will receive between $359 and $2,500 per month. The amount of the individual grants will vary based on the following factors:
  • Total number of children served prior to COVID-19:  Programs serving more children will receive larger grants.
  • Star rating:  Programs with a higher star rating will receive larger grants because of the higher cost to meet higher standards.
  • Infant toddler enrollment:  Programs serving infants and toddlers will receive larger grants to account for higher staffing and fixed costs associated with caring for infants and toddlers.
  • Serving subsidy children:  Programs that have served subsidy children in the past 12 months will receive smaller grants than programs that do not serve families and children receiving child care subsidy. Federal Child Care Development Funds are intended to increase access to quality care for families and children with low incomes. However, because of the unique challenges programs are facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, all programs will receive some level of grant support.
  • Subsidy density (the percentage of children enrolled who receive child care subsidy):  Because DCDEE is continuing to stabilize child care subsidy monthly payments to child care providers based on February enrollment, programs that have higher percentages of children on subsidy are getting more of their typical monthly revenue covered than programs that have lower percentages of children on subsidy and rely more heavily on private fees from parents. Therefore, programs with lower percentages of children on subsidy will receive larger grants.
When will the operational grants be awarded?
The operational grants for those child care facilities that were open in April were awarded in May.
 
If the child care facility reopened in May, the operational grants will be awarded beginning June 25, 2020, but deposits can take up to five business days to reach provider’s accounts. Grants will be prorated based on when the child care facility reopened. Grant payments could be a combined payment for May and June (two months’ worth of grants).
 
If the child care facility reopens in June, the operational grants will be prorated based on the date of reopening and will be awarded beginning June 25, 2020, but deposits can take up to five business days to reach provider’s accounts.
 
How can child care facilities find out how much their grant awards will be?
To find out the amount of the operational grant awarded to your facility, please call the appropriate telephone number listed below. When contacting the Division of Child Development and Early Education have the facility name and license number available:
  • If the child care facility is in Alamance through Johnston Counties, contact Arlette Lambert at 919.703.5262.
  • If the child care facility is in Jones through Yancey Counties, contact Laura Hewitt at 919.703.7916. 
  • If the child care facility would like to receive the grant amount via email, please send that request to dcdee.communications@dhhs.nc.gov.
All questions received will be responded to within two business days.
 
Bonus Payment Reminder
Bonus payments for those child care providers who submitted attendance for the months of April and May have been issued. The most recent payments were released on June 12, 2020. If you missed the deadline for entering attendance for teachers and staff at your child care facility, a second wave of payments will be issued. To be captured in the final wave of bonus payments, please submit all attendance for teachers and staff by 9:00 pm on June 22, 2020.
 
Emergency Subsidy Program Payment Reminder
Emergency Subsidy Program payments for those child care providers who submitted attendance for the children in the program for the months of April and May have been issued. The most recent payments were released on June 12, 2020. If you missed the deadline for entering attendance for children at your child care facility, a second wave of payments will be issued. To be captured in the final wave of payments for the Emergency Subsidy Program, please submit all attendance for children by 9:00 pm by June 22, 2020.
 
Reports of COVID-19 in Licensed/Regulated Child Care & School Settings
Beginning June 22, 2020, NCDHHS will begin publicly reporting COVID-19 clusters, defined as 5 or more cases with linkage between cases, in licensed/regulated child care and school settings.  Child care operators and school principals are required per G.S. 130A-136 to report suspected cases of reportable communicable diseases, including COVID-19, to the local health director of the county or district in which the school or facility is located. Public reporting of clusters in child care and school settings is necessary to protect public health and implement appropriate control measures.
 
This data will be reported twice weekly. The report will include the names of child care facilities or schools with a COVID-19 cluster (as defined above), as well as the facility type (school or child care), facility county, and the number of cases and deaths among staff and children. All data reported for clusters in school and child care settings will be disaggregated in terms of cases and deaths of staff and children. 
 
Updated Door Signs
The door signs for all child care facilities have been updated as of June 16, 2020.  Please post the updated door signs at your facility (English | Spanish).

June 11

Testing

NCDHHS released updated guidance for doctors and clinicians on who should be tested for COVID-19. The state is focused on rapidly increasing testing of people who may not currently have symptoms, but may have been exposed to COVID-19, especially people from historically marginalized populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. To support testing in populations being hit hardest by COVID-19, NCDHHS also has a new resource available, COVID-19 Community Testing in Historically Marginalized Populations: Best Practices.

Early Childhood Note:  Frontline and essential workers now explicitly includes child care workers

June 9

Preschool Reopening

The memorandum linked here, issued jointly between NCDHHS and NCDPI, states that preschool programs located in public schools, including NC Pre-K, EC, Title 1, and Head Start, should follow the Interim Guidance for Child Care Settings as they reopen rather than the new K-12 Public Health Guidance. While similar to the K-12 public health guidance, the child care guidance is better suited for early learning.

However, the memo notes that preschool programs located in public schools may be asked to take additional precautions on their campus, such as social distancing in the cafeteria. Normally we would not ask young children to keep 6 feet apart from each other – however, if possible, preschool programs should follow campus-wide health protocols if asked to do so, especially in shared settings like hallways and the cafeteria.

June 8

K-12 Education

NCDHHS released health and safety guidance for reopening schools in the fall, including the requirement for schools to have in place three plans:

Read more here.

Child Care

Beginning June 22, 2020, NCDHHS will begin publicly reporting COVID-19 clusters, defined as 5 or more cases with linkage between cases, in licensed/regulated child care and school settings.  Child care operators and school principals are required per G.S. 130A-136 to report suspected cases of reportable communicable diseases, including COVID-19, to the local health director of the county or district in which the school or facility is located. Public reporting of clusters in child care and school settings is necessary to protect public health and implement appropriate control measures.
 
This data will be reported twice weekly. The report will include the names of child care facilities or schools with a COVID-19 cluster (as defined above), as well as the facility type (school or child care), facility county, and the number of cases and deaths among staff and children. All data reported for clusters in school and child care settings will be disaggregated in terms of cases and deaths of staff and children.
 
Please see the letter from Susan Gale Perry, Chief Deputy Secretary of NCDHHS, and Mark Benton, Assistant Secretary for the NC Division of Public Health for more information. 

June 4

Child Care

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) has shared new and updated guidance, which is intended to help licensed/regulated child care facilities make informed decisions about COVID-19 and minimize the risk of exposure to both the staff and the children in their care. 
 
The guidance specifically covers:
DCDEE asks that special attention be paid to the guidance for transportation if you are transporting children to and from your child care facility.
 
Actions that are required for each topic are stated in  Executive Order 141 or existing child care rules.  Actions that are recommended for each topic were developed to protect the staff and children in child care to minimize spread of COVID-19. Facilities are expected to make every effort to meet all guidance in this document. Specific actions should be tailored to each child care program.
 
If you have questions about how to apply and tailor this guidance to your facility, contact your child care consultant.
 
If you have health and safety questions, contact your child care health consultant.  

May Updates:

May 26

Children’s Health

First Case of MIS-C Reported in North Carolina

While children generally experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, recently a possible link has been found between COVID-19 and a serious inflammatory disease in some children and teenagers who have current or recent infections. The first reports of this syndrome came from the United Kingdom in late April. Cases in the United States were first reported in New York City in early May. The first case was reported in NC in recent weeks. NCDHHS has requested reporting of suspected cases of MIS-C from all health care providers. MIS-C is a very rare condition, but as COVID-19 cases increase, additional reports of MIS-C could follow. Because children with this syndrome may become seriously ill, it is important that parents and caregivers know the signs and symptoms their children may have so they can get help right away.

Read More

Family Economic Security

NCDHHS Provides One-Time Payment to Families with Children in Work First Cash Assistance Program

NCDHHS began last week distributing a one-time supplemental payment to families enrolled in the Work First Cash Assistance program with one or more children. These payments are intended to help vulnerable families during the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read More

May 22

General Guidance

Phase 2: Safer At Home goes into effect today at 5 pm. Here are some resources from NC DHHS and the Governor’s Office:

Also check out the updated COVID-19 Dashboard, which provides an overview on the metrics and capacities that the state is following to inform decisions to responsibly ease measures that slow the spread of the virus.

May 21

Childcare in Phase 2

Phase 2: Safer at Home begins tomorrow, May 22 at 5 pm. As outlined in Executive Order 141, child care facilities may open in Phase 2 and may serve all children, if they abide by all these requirements:
  • Follow all NCDHHS guidelines, including updated health and safety guidelines and policy and regulatory requirements
  • Follow the core signage, screening, and sanitation requirements
    • Post the Emergency Maximum Occupancy in a noticeable place.
    • Post signage reminding employees about social distancing.
    • Post the updated door signs at your facility (English | Spanish).
    • Conduct a daily health screening on all individuals who are entering the building
    • Immediately isolate all sick workers and children from the rest of the facility and send them home.
    • Have a plan to work with local health departments to identify close contacts of confirmed cases in child care settings.
    • Before reopening, submit a Child Care Reopening Application at least 48 hours before reopening (if no Emergency Child Care Provider Application was previously submitted).
Reminders about Reopening
  • Step by step instructions are available explaining how to submit the Child Care Reopening Application.
  • After submitting a Child Care Reopening Application, your child care consultant will contact you to discuss your plan to meet the health and safety guidelines and will provide you with a health and safety certificate that can be posted in your facility.
  • Providers who are reopening after extended closure should read the health and safety guidelines closely to take appropriate steps.
  • The PowerPoint and the recording for the webinars from last week are available to explain the Child Care Reopening Application, operational grants, and updated health guidance.
  • Open providers should submit the COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey daily.
  • If you have any questions about reopening, contact your child care consultant.
  • If you have health and safety questions, contact your child care health consultant .

Financial Support for Open Providers 

Operational grants: The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) is offering financial support to all licensed child care programs that are open or plan to reopen in May or June. Providers will receive operational grants for April, May, and June for the months they are open to help cover operational and fixed costs for these months during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Operational grants will range from $500 to $30,000 per month for child care centers and range from $359 to $2,500 per month for family child care homes.
  • Programs that were open in April should receive their operational grants this week.
  • Programs that reopen in May or June will receive their operational grants in mid-June or mid-July, respectively.

Emergency Child Care Subsidy Payments: DCDEE will continue to pay emergency child care subsidy payments for May for children who were enrolled as of May 8.

  • Providers should submit May attendance in the Provider Portal by June 5, 2020.
  • Providers who served children of essential workers should make sure to upload each child’s parent application into the Provider Portal OR mail the forms to DCDEE by May 25, 2020, in order to receive emergency subsidy payments for May. The mailing address for DCDEE is NC Division of Child Development and Early Education, Subsidy Services Section, 2201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27699-2200.

Bonus Payments for Employees: DCDEE will continue to pay bonus payments for employees who are working on-site for all or part of May. Providers should submit May attendance in the Provider Portal by June 5, 2020.

Subsidy Payments and Parent Co-Payments: DCDEE will continue to pay subsidy payments and cover parent co-payments for all providers, regardless of whether they are open or closed for April and May. In June, DCDEE will pay subsidy payments and cover parent co-payments only for open providers.

More information about these financial supports is available in the COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policies.

May 19

Preschool Eligibility Guidance

NC DPI (Title I Preschool and the Head Start State Collaboration Office) and DCDEE (NC Pre-K) are working together to provide guidance related to preschool programs, as a result of COVID-19. The first guidance is in reference to questions received related to preschool eligibility determination and enrollment for the 2020-21 school year. Recommendations include:

Continue supporting currently enrolled children and families using a whole child/family perspective. Resources to support families may include:

  • Local meal access through No Kid Hungry NC.
  • Information about unemployment.
  • Appropriate educational resources (birth – grade 2) for families to support engagement and learning at home. Resources or activities provided to families should focus on the importance of relationships and interactions using everyday life as learning opportunities, routine and not regimen, reading and, of course, play!
  • Social/emotional supports for children and families.
  • Local options for child care for essential workers (along with financial assistance for care for families in need).
  • Factual information about COVID-19 provided by the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Click here for the full guidance, including links.

May 18

NC Pre-K

DCDEE has provided end-of-year guidance that builds on the initial NC Pre-K remote learning guidance. It was designed in response to data and perspectives collected by DCDEE in April and early May, including:

  • Issuing initial guidance to NC Pre-K programs on remote learning and family engagement. Click here to review the remote learning guidance issued on April 22nd which included expectations on documenting family engagement and ongoing professional development through a weekly work plan.
  • Distributing a survey to all NC Pre-K contract administrators and site administrators on remote learning practices and areas of need. Click here to view the full interim survey report for more details on the April NC Pre-K survey results.
  • Holding webinars the first week of May to provide resources and to field questions from NC Pre-K teachers, administrators, and contractors. In total, over 2,050 participants joined the discussion. In response to these webinars, a frequently asked questions document will be sent out and further information is outlined in the guidance attached to provide additional support.

This end of year guidance is intended to respond to feedback and input, and to provide expectations to all NC Pre-K programs on how to close out the remainder of the year strong to best prepare children and families for kindergarten.

Additionally, all NC Pre-K lead teachers and teacher assistants should complete an end of year survey that will be sent directly to them via email in the final weeks of May. NC Pre-K teachers’ input is essential for DCDEE to better understand educators’ experience in providing ongoing learning, whether remote or in person, during the COVID-19 crisis, and supporting NC Pre-K families.

May 15

COVID-19 Testing

NC DHHS has updated their guidance on COVID-19 testing. The updated guidance provides information on who can get tested, how testing can occur, and locations where testing is available.
 
Questions about the NC DHHS COVID-19 testing guidance should be directed to CCNCSupport@communitycarenc.org or medicaid.covid19@dhhs.nc.gov.

May 14

Childcare

DCDEE will provide operational grants to licensed child care facilities that are open for all or part of April, May, and June. The operational grants will help providers cover monthly fixed operating costs during these three months of the COVID-19 crisis, recognizing that revenues from parent fees are significantly lower as non-essential workers have kept their children home with them.
 
Who will receive operational grants?
Child care programs who were open in April or reopen in May or June will receive operational grants. In April, DCDEE required providers to submit an Emergency Child Care Provider application to remain open, as well as complete a COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey to report whether they were open or closed. Child care programs will receive operational grants for April if they were approved as an emergency child care provider and indicated they were open on the daily provider survey.
 
How much will child care facilities receive?
Child care centers will receive between $500 and $30,000 per month. Family child care homes will receive between $359 and $2,500 per month. The amount of the individual grants will vary based on the following factors:
  • Total number of children served prior to COVID-19:  Programs serving more children will receive larger grants.
  • Star rating:  Programs with a higher star rating will receive larger grants because of the higher cost to meet higher standards.
  • Infant toddler enrollment:  Programs serving infants and toddlers will receive larger grants to account for higher staffing and fixed costs associated with caring for infants and toddlers.
  • Serving subsidy children:  Programs that have served subsidy children in the past 12 months will receive larger grants than programs that do not serve families and children receiving child care subsidy. Federal Child Care Development Funds are intended to increase access to quality care for families and children with low incomes. However, because of the unique challenges programs are facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, all programs will receive some level of grant support.
  • Subsidy density (the percentage of children enrolled who receive child care subsidy):  Because DCDEE is continuing to stabilize child care subsidy monthly payments to child care providers based on February enrollment, programs that have higher percentages of children on subsidy are getting more of their typical monthly revenue covered than programs that have lower percentages of children on subsidy and rely more heavily on private fees from parents. Therefore, programs with lower percentages of children on subsidy will receive larger grants.
When will the operational grants be awarded?
  • If the child care facility was open in April, the operational grants will be awarded next week. It will be a combined payment for April and May (two months’ worth of grants).
  • If the child care facility reopens in May, the operational grants will be awarded in mid-June. It will be a combined payment for May and June (two months’ worth of grants).
Do child care facilities need to do anything to receive an operational grant?
No. DCDEE will issue the operational grants for April based on whether child care facilities were open and based on the individual facility’s characteristics. For programs that are reopening in May, DCDEE will issue operational grants to programs that are reopening (which involves submitting a COVID-19 Child Care Provider Reopening Application and completing the COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey).
 
How can child care facilities find out how much their grant awards will be?
Please contact Arlette Lambert at (919) 703-5262 or dcdee.communications@dhhs.nc.gov to find out how much your facility will receive in operational grants.  All questions received will be responded to within 24 hours.

May 13

Childcare

DCDEE will host three webinars for child care providers on Thursday, May 14 and Friday May 15, to cover:
  • Phases of reopening and what it means that North Carolina is in Phase 1
  • Operational grants and other payment updates
  • Updated health and safety guidance
At the time of the meeting, providers can click on the link OR dial the phone number and enter the access code. There is no advance registration required.

Thursday, May 14th from 1-2pm

Friday, May 15th from 11am to 12pm

Friday, May 15th from 2-3pm

If you would like to submit questions in advance of the webinar, please email DCDEE Communications by today (Wednesday, May 13) at 5pm.

May 11

Health Care

New Portal Opens to File Claims for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment of Uninsured Patients

Health care providers and hospitals can use a new portal to request reimbursement for claims associated with COVID-19 testing and treatment of uninsured patients retroactive to Feb. 4. The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) COVID-19 Uninsured Program Portal was launched by the federal DHHS to support health care providers in delivering COVID-19 diagnostic testing and treatment at no cost to patients. 

Nutrition

Food and Nutrition Services Participants Can Now Use Benefits at Authorized Online EBT Retailers

North Carolina Food and Nutrition Services participants can purchase groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at authorized online EBT retailers. The new flexibility allows participants to buy food while also promoting social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and helping families with transportation and mobility barriers.

K-3 Remote Learning Access

School buses are bringing internet access to communities without it to help more North Carolina students connect to school online. Governor Cooper announced the plan to equip more school buses with hotspots following the announcement that K-12 public schools would continue remote learning through the end of this school year. Read more.

Early Care and Education

Updated Health Guidance 
NC DHHS has updated the Interim Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidance for Child Care Settings  with new information from the CDC. Child care facilities may now open if they operate in compliance with these updated health guidelines and other guidelines issued by NC DHHS. Key changes to the health guidelines are shown in red in the link above and include:
  • Updated symptoms list for daily health screening
  • Updates on social distancing strategies, including language on cloth face coverings
  • Updates on sanitation and hygiene practices
  • New guidance for facilities that are reopening after extended closure
DCDEE has also updated door signs for child care facilities in English and Spanish to match the updated symptom list. 
 
Reopening Application 
As North Carolina moves into Phase 1, DCDEE has authorized that all child care programs can reopen as of today, May 11, under new emergency child care licensing regulations. Licensed/regulated child care facilities that are planning to reopen:
  • Must submit a Child Care Provider Reopening Application and agree to meet the health and safety guidelines before reopening.
  • After submitting an application, your child care consultant will reach out to discuss your facility’s plan to meet the updated health and safety guidelines and answer any questions about reopening.
  • DCDEE encourages you to proactively reach out to your child care consultant if you have questions about meeting the updated health and safety guidelines.

Providers who have remained open and completed a COVID-19 Emergency Child Care Provider Application will not need to fill out the Reopening Application unless they closed after submitting the emergency application. Those providers now need to:

  • Follow the updated health and safety guidance, and 
  • Post the COVID-19 Health and Safety Certificate, which will arrive via email
COVID-19 Health and Safety Certificate for Open Providers
DCDEE will be providing COVID-19 Health and Safety Certificates to open child care facilities to indicate that the facilities are approved to operate and have agreed to be in full compliance with the health and safety guidelines for child care facilities issued by NCDHHS. Child care consultants will email the certificates to providers who were approved to serve as emergency child care providers in April, as well as to providers who are approved to newly reopen in May. Facilities should post the certificates while the current emergency regulations are in effect.

May 7:

Day Camps:

Under the modified stay-at-home order, day camps may open if they meet new requirements to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. New guidance is available from DHHS to help camps make informed decisions about COVID-19 and minimize the risk of exposure to both the staff and the children in their care:

Interim Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidance for Day Camp Settings includes information on:

  • Communicating with parents, staff and campers
  • Drop-off and arrival procedure
  • People who may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19
  • Preventing the spread of the virus
  • Sanitation and hygiene practices
  • When someone develops symptoms during the day
  • Advise those who have been excluded
  • Reopening after extended closure
  • Daily health screening of staff and children for COVID-19

May 6:

Childcare 

Updates from DCDEE on the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program, April attendance submission, Bonus Payments for Child Care Teachers and Staff, and new Operational Grants.
 
Emergency Subsidy Program will End May 31
On May 5, Governor Cooper issued North Carolina’s Stay At Home Executive Order 138, which transitions the state to Phase 1 of slowly easing COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order 138 goes into effect on Friday, May 8, 2020, at 5:00PM.  Given that Executive Order 138 removes the “essential business” designation, and more businesses can now reopen, providers may enroll new children in the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program ONLY through Friday, May 8th at 5:00PM.
 
Providers will continue to receive emergency subsidy payments for May for all children who are enrolled in the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program as of Friday, May 8 at 5:00PM. The Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program will end on Sunday, May 31. Please inform families as soon as possible that the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program will no longer be available beginning June 1, 2020.
 

Emergency Subsidy Attendance for April 

The deadline for providers to submit attendance for emergency subsidy children and teachers/staff bonuses for April services has passed; however, providers who did not previously accept subsidy vouchers and are in the process of completing steps required for enrollment and setting up direct deposit to receive payment for emergency child care and staff bonuses will continue to have access to the Emergency Subsidy Provider Portal after the May 5 deadline so they can record their attendance for children and staff for April.
  • Payments for providers who submitted their April attendance by May 5 are scheduled to be issued on Friday, May 15. 
  • Providers who submit April attendance for children and staff after May 5 will receive payment during the next payment cycle, which begins June 12. 
Questions? Contact the DCDEE Subsidy Services Section (919-814-6380) or the NC FAST Provider Help Desk (919-813-5460).
 
Bonus Payments for Child Care Teachers and Staff 
Bonus payments will be issued for child care teachers and staff for May for programs that are currently open and for those that reopen in May. Providers will also continue to receive a 10% payment on top of the bonus payments for May which can be used to cover payroll taxes and other administrative costs. For more information about how bonus payments work, please see the Payment Policy.
 
Operational Grants:  More Information Forthcoming
DCDEE is also working to provide additional operational grant funding to open providers and will provide more information by early next week.

K-3 Education

NCDPI has released a new resource: online Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Learning Labs.

Developed in partnership with Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP), Advanced Learning Labs are provided for K-12 students each week beginning May 1st. Students explore logic puzzles, go on field studies, engage in research explorations, participate in mindfulness activities and more through remote learning. These may be printed or used online. Teachers and parents can use the Advanced Learning Labs with their students.

May 5:

General

Governor Cooper issued North Carolina’s Stay At Home Executive Order 138, which transitions the state to Phase 1 of slowly easing COVID-19 restrictions. Executive Order 138 goes into effect on Friday, May 8 at 5:00PM. Phase 1 changes are outlined in this infographic from the Governor’s Office:

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) created several materials to help businesses navigate Phase 1, including:

  • NCDHHS Checklist for Business Owners
  • Interim Guidance for Owners, Staff, and Patrons of Businesses
  • Symptom Screening Checklist
  • Templates to Meet Required Signage

DHHS also previewed a new campaign, Know Your Ws! While North Carolinians should still stay home, if they go out, they should know their Ws: Wear. Wait. Wash.

  • Wear a face covering.
  • Wait 6 feet apart from other people.
  • Wash your hands often.

A Know Your Ws flyer is available in English and Spanish

May 1

Mental Health Support for Frontline Workers

NCDHHS and the North Carolina Psychological Foundation have launched a helpline to connect front line workers to licensed mental health professionals. The Hope4Healers Helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 
(919) 226-2002. All calls will be confidential. Hope4Healers is available to childcare teachers and staff, health care professionals, emergency medical specialists, first responders and other staff who work in health care settings and their families who are experiencing stress from being on the front lines of NC’s COVID-19 response. 
 
Flyers about the Helpline are available for distribution to teachers and staff, in English and Spanish–English Flyer 1English Flyer 2Spanish Flyer 1, and Spanish Flyer 2.
 

April Updates:

April 29

Legislative Update

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees met together to debate their bills, which include both policy changes due to COVID-19 and allocations of federal funding for relief. NCECF put together this chart to share the early childhood provisions across the Governor, House and Senate budget proposals. Read more here.

April 28

Childcare – Bonus Pay

DCDEE announced that it will be increasing bonus payments to child care teachers and staff for April and May, as well as covering the employer portion of payroll taxes and other administrative costs. Detailed information about the new bonus amounts, administrative funds, and schedule of payments is now available here. DCDEE is grateful that many child care teachers, staff and programs have stayed open to provide emergency child care to essential personnel – often with risk and at a financial disadvantage to themselves.

Additional federal funding has been allocated through the Child Care and Development Block Grant to support families, child care programs, and child care staff during this economically challenging and stressful time. These increased bonuses, the Emergency Child Care Program for Essential Workers, and child care subsidy stabilization have all been designed to support the state’s child care industry and workforce during this time. DCDEE is planning for additional supports as the state moves through phases of recovery.

Access to High Quality Preschool – Summer Learning 

The Head Start State Collaboration Office, Title I Preschool, and Exceptional Children Preschool programs in the Department of Public Instruction Office of Early Learning have shared guidance for Head Start grantees to access CARES Act funding to operate summer programming. This funding provides a new opportunity for continued collaboration and coordination at the local level and aligns with NC’s ongoing ESSA Early Learning Initiative.  

Priority for funding will go to programs that serve currently enrolled rising kindergarteners and children with IEPs and offer:

  • Social and emotionally supportive learning environments
  • Consistent daily routines
  • Support for families to bring their children up to date on needed medical, dental, and other follow-up services
  • Transition support for children and families to receiving schools.
  • If funding is available, Head Start programs may also be able to serve other vulnerable populations that would greatly benefit from a summer program in addition to currently enrolled rising kindergarteners and children with IEPs.

This opportunity is voluntary and Head Start programs are not required to apply. This partnership opportunity can be leveraged locally to coordinate strategies in support of transition to Kindergarten and services to children with IEPs. Various programs may be able to offer summer programming, so a planned, coordinated effort among preschool programs would be most beneficial to young children and their families.

Access the instructions for how to apply here.

Please direct questions to:

Carla Garrett
Title I Preschool Consultant
Office of Early Learning (Pre-K – Grade 3)
NC Department of Public Instruction
336.504.2037

Karen McKnight
NC Head Start State Collaboration Office Director
Office of Early Learning (Pre-K – Grade 3)
NC Department of Public Instruction
919.866.9325

Dawn Mendonca Meskil
Interim Preschool Exceptional Children (619) Coordinator
NC Preschool Exceptional Children Consultant
Office of Early Learning (Pre-K – Grade 3)
NC Department of Public Instruction
828.649.5290

April 27

General

Governor Cooper released a proposal for how to invest part of NC’s COVID-19 federal relief funds. Read more here.

Childcare

The Emergency Subsidy Provider Portal has been updated so that when you log in, you will be able to enter attendance for children and employees at the end of the month.
  • Providers may begin entering attendance for the month of April on Thursday, April 30 and must finish entering all attendance by 9:00pm on Tuesday, May 5. A job aid with detailed instructions on how to enter children and employees, and how to record and submit attendance for children and employees is available. This portal is only to record children who are enrolled in the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program and for employees receiving bonuses. Record attendance for children enrolled in regular subsidy as you normally do.
  • Providers can also begin uploading completed COVID-19 Parent Applications for Emergency Child Care on Thursday, April 30.  Please ensure that all Parent Applications are submitted either through the Emergency Subsidy Provider Portal or by mail by no later than May 25 in order to receive payment for May services. Instructions for how to upload parent applications are included within the portal. If you are unable to upload the applications, please mail them to DCDEE, Subsidy Services Section, 2201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-2200.
For questions about the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program, please call the DCDEE Subsidy Unit at 919-814-6380. For questions about how to use the Emergency Subsidy Provider Portal, please call the Provider Help Desk at 919-813-5460.

April 24:

Education

Governor Cooper, Chair of the State Board of Education Eric Davis and Superintendent of Public Schools Mark Johnson announced today that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, with remote learning continuing until the scheduled end of the school year, per each district’s calendar. Chair Davis shared some of the details of DPI’s current work, including focusing on:

  • Health and safety of students and teachers
  • Ensuring continued delivery of meals and nutrition for students
  • Maintaining teacher-child relationships that support children’s social-emotional health
  • Keeping children engaged through remote learning

Click here for more information about NCDPI’s budget requests to the state and the department’s plans for the next few months, including an early grades Jump Start summer program for students who are below grade-level in reading.

April 23:

General

Governor Cooper and Secretary Cohen shared today information about what metrics NC is tracking to determine when the state will start a three-phase reopening strategy. The message of the day was: NC is flattening the curve, but we’re not quite there yet. The Governor said he would make an announcement tomorrow about schools.

The administration is looking to see declines in:

  • People seeking care for COVID-like symptoms
  • New confirmed cases
  • Positivity rate (percent of positive tests out of total tests run)
  • Rate of hospitalizations

The administration also wants to see NC build greater capacity for testing, tracing contacts of confirmed cases, and for personal protective equipment (gowns and masks). 

Once those metrics are met, the state will be able to start undertaking a three-phase reopening process, including:

  • Phase 1: More commercial activity allowed, parks reopen, but stay at home order still in place
  • Phase 2 (2-3 weeks after Phase 1, if metrics still look good): Stay at Home order lifted, limited opening of restaurants, other businesses but with reduced capacity, allow gatherings like houses of worship but with reduced capacity, playground opened
  • Phase 3 (4-6 weeks after Phase 2): Increased capacity at restaurants, etc, larger gatherings permitted

Childcare 

DCDEE shared the following updates for childcare providers:

  • Emergency Child Care Subsidy Provider Portal will be down this weekend, starting Friday at 9 pm.
  • Starting Monday, providers can enter attendance information in the portal for children in the emergency child care subsidy program and for child care employees who are working on-site in April. This information will be used by DCDEE to issue emergency child care subsidy payments and bonus payments to staff.
  • Release of the UPDATED COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policy, with some clarifications about how the payments will work.
Questions about these payment updates should go to the DCDEE Subsidy Unit (919-814-6380) or the DCDEE Early Education Branch (919-814-6345).

April 20:

Food Security

NCDHHS announced that NC has just received federal approval for the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program to help more families purchase food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • NCDHHS is working to operationalize the program.
  • P-EBT recipients will receive this benefit in coming weeks.
  • Families will not need to apply for the P-EBT program. P-EBT eligible families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) benefits will receive an additional benefit on their existing EBT card.
  • P-EBT eligible families not already enrolled in FNS will be mailed a new EBT card in the next few weeks. Families who receive a new EBT card will receive a letter from NCDHHS in the mail explaining how to activate and use their card.
  • Families can also continue to text FOODNC to 877-877 to find local meal sites. The service is also available in Spanish by texting COMIDA to 877-877. 

The P-EBT program provides a benefit on an EBT card to North Carolina families whose children have access to free and reduced lunch at school. More than 800,000 children are expected to receive help buying food through the P-EBT program.

April 17:

General:

Governor Cooper and NCDHHS shared a presentation showing that social distancing is working to flatten the curve in NC. The accompanying press release stresses that the next steps of broader testing, tracing new cases, and watching trends will determine when the state can start a gradual re-opening process. The public can access recent press briefings by the Governor, and Secretary Cohen here.

Access to Healthcare:

Telehealth 

All insurance companies in the state, including Medicaid and Medicare, are now covering healthcare visits through telehealth services. North Carolinians can receive services while avoiding the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Doctors and other clinicians across the state are using telehealth to deliver primary care and prenatal care; help patients manage asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions; and provide behavioral health counseling, physical therapy and more. DHHS and NC Medicaid have developed a video and a flyer to help alleviate concerns and encourage people to talk with their doctors about using telehealth.

Behavioral Health, and Intellectual and Developmental Services

A new resource outlines actions that communities can take to maintain and sustain services for individuals with behavioral health needs and intellectual and developmental disabilities and to reduce the burden on emergency departments and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategies are directed at local government agencies, community organizations, local management entity/managed care organizations (LME/MCOs), behavioral health providers, hospitals in communities across the state and other partners. Press release.

April 15:

General:

Governor Cooper will hold an update and resource information briefing at 3:30 pm today for NC Communities of Color on COVID-19. Tune in live to the virtual session here hosted by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

April 14:

General:

New State COVID-19 Website

A new website coordinating COVID-19 information, updates and resources across all of NC state government has been created as is accessible at: https://www.nc.gov/covid19. 

Videos Available in English and Spanish

NCDHHS has videos on a range of topics, including how to slow the spread, reducing risk, support and resources and more. 

2-1-1 Has New Online Tool

NC 211 has launched a new online search tool allowing for easier search of resources. NC 211 has handled over 19,718 calls since activation on 18 March and more than 67,000 people have registered to receive COVID-19 text updates.

Social-Emotional Health:

New Mental Health Supports Available

  • The Hope4NC Helpline is a mental health resource to support North Carolinians during COVID-19. Call 1-855-587-3463 for support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) is also available for health care professionals, emergency medical specialists, and first responders who are experiencing stress. Hope4Healers is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

April 13:

General:

Governor Cooper shared at a press conference that epidemiological models are showing that the social distancing measures in place are beginning to flatten the curve and that we must stay the course for now. His Executive Order on social distancing in retail takes effect at 5 pm today.

Governor Cooper also noted that more than half a million North Carolinians have now applied for unemployment insurance due to COVID-19. The Division of Employment Security is continuing to build capacity to take new claims and process checks as fast as possible.

Reminder of Resources and Support Available for Families

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) have worked together to ensure that children and families are able to get essential resources and support needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. By partnering with public and private entities across the state, the following resources are available to help children:  

  • hotline connecting essential workers to local child care options (along with financial assistance for care for families in need);
  • texting service to help families in need find meal sites; and
  • a list of educational resources (birth – grade 2) for parents who are trying to keep their young children engaged and learning while schools and care facilities are closed.  

Recap of Guidance for Child Care Providers During COVID-19

DCDEE provided the following recap of guidance shared in the last week or so for child care providers. Here it is all in one place:

COVID-19 HEALTH GUIDELINES
As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, NCDHHS is working to ensure that all providers have guidance to keep their staff, families, and children safe and healthy.
 
For providers who remain open to serve children of essential workers, the expectations are:
If your facility plans to reopen during the health emergency, complete the COVID-19 Emergency Child Care Provider Application Form. To apply, you must attest that you can meet the Interim Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Health Guidance for Child Care Settings and additional operational expectations. If you have not completed the form and received approval to remain open, you must close your facility. To reopen, you must complete the application and attest to meeting the guidelines at least two business days prior to the planned reopening, and receive approval from DCDEE.
 
VACANCY AND CLOSURE REPORTING
In order to assist in connecting families to available care for children, please complete the daily COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey by 11:59pm each day to provide information on your service status, attendance, and additional capacity at your facility. Your responses will be provided to the child care hotline being operated by the North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) network. 
 
CHILD CARE HOTLINE
Through a new toll-free hotline, 1-888-600-1685, the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Network is connecting families to available care options based on the daily vacancy reporting that is provided in the daily COVID-19 Child Care Provider Survey. The hotline is available from 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday. The system is prioritizing referrals for essential workers, which includes emergency and first responders, hospital staff, front-line healthcare providers, nursing and adult group home staff, child care program staff, food service staff, and others working to keep communities safe and healthy throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Child care for children who are receiving child welfare services, homeless, or in unstable or unsafe living arrangements are also a priority.
 
CHILD CARE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS
Effective April 1, 2020, parents/caregivers can complete a COVID-19 Parent Application for Financial Assistance for Emergency Child Care (available in English and Spanish) and submit the application for financial assistance to a child care provider that is accepting children whose parents/caregivers are essential workers. Finally, parents can also fill out a hard copy of the Parent Application at any open child care facility.

The expectations are:
  • Have printed copies of the COVID-19 Parent Application for Financial Assistance for Emergency Child Care available at your facility for essential workers who are seeking financial assistance for emergency child care.
    • English and Spanish versions are available.
    • Copies of the Voter Registration forms are available in English and Spanish for parents/caregivers who would like to register to vote.
  • Review the guidance for steps to take with regard to the Parent Application forms.
PROVIDER PORTAL FOR EMERGENCY SUBSIDY PROGRAM
DCDEE launched a Provider Portal for the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program to be used by providers who are accepting enrollment of and serving new children of essential workers.
 
The expectations are:
COVID-19 CHILD CARE PAYMENT POLICY
The COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policy provides detailed information about policy changes related to:
  • Subsidized Child Care program payments
  • NC Pre-K Program payments
  • Emergency Child Care Subsidy program payments
  • Bonus payments to child care teachers and staff providing services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 
FURTHER QUESTIONS OR HELP 
  • For general questions and application questions, contact your DCDEE child care consultant.
  • For questions about health guidance and needs, contact your child care health consultant.
  • For questions about the Provider Portal for Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program, contact the NC FAST Provider Help Desk at 919-813-5460.
  • For questions about the Subsidized Child Care Program or the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program, contact DCDEE at 1-800-859-0829 or 919-814-6380.
  • For questions about NC Pre-K, contact DCDEE Early Education Branch at 919-814-6345.
  • For help or resources, such as food or diapers, or troubleshooting other problems, contact your local Smart Start partnership.

April 9:

Social Distancing in Retail

Governor Cooper released an Executive Order that sets requirements for essential businesses in order to safeguard the health of customers and employees. Some of the directives include:

  • Setting limits of how many people can be in a store at one time: 5 people per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% of fire marshal posted occupancy limits
  • Marking 6 feet of distance for areas where people gather like checkout lines
  • Requiring specific cleaning measures for retail stores

The Order encourages:

  • Implementing hygiene recommendations for employees and customers, like hand sanitizer at the doors and face coverings for workers
  • Establishing designated shopping times designated for high-risk groups
  • Creating barriers between customers and employees at checkout to lower the risk of required interactions

The Order goes into effect Monday, April 13 at 5 pm and states these requirements will last for thirty days unless extended by further executive action.

April 8:

How Can I Help?

Governor Cooper and Director of Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry shared a few ways that North Carolinians can help during the crisis:

  • Stay home as much as you can to limit the spread of the virus. There is a Stay at Home order in place through the month of April. Data is showing that this measure is working, and if we keep it up, we will slow the spread of the virus. Governor Cooper will be consulting with public health experts, looking at the data and experiences from other state and countries, and considering modeling to determine whether the Stay at Home order will be extended beyond the end of April. An executive order is expected tomorrow to address crowding in retail stores.
  • Give bloodStores are low and are always needed in a time of crisis like this.
  • Donate money, food or time to a food bank near you.
    • Donate money online, by text, or by mail.
    • Drop off non-perishable food donations at food banks.
    • Food banks are also seeking volunteers to help keep shelves stocked and have put measures in place to reduce risk for volunteers and staff. Volunteers are currently limited to those aged 18-60 to limit exposure to those most at risk from COVID-19. Please do not volunteer if you are feeling ill.

Early Care and Education

DCDEE launched a Provider Portal for the Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program, to be used by providers who are accepting enrollment of and serving new children of essential workers. The Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program Portal can accessed by navigating to the the regular Child Care Subsidy Assistance Provider Portal, entering your business NCID login information, and selecting “Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program”.
 
Additional guidance is forthcoming about how providers will track and record child and employee attendance in the Provider Portal.
 
For more information:
  • Full announcement is posted on the DCDEE website.
  • Contact the NC FAST Provider Help Desk at 919-813-5460 with technical problems

April 7:

Financial Security for Families

We have updated our recent post to include new information on unemployment insurance benefits. Learn who is eligible, for how much, for how long, how to apply and when to expect your first payment.

Early Care and Education and the Early Grades (K-2)

New Office of Early Learning Resources

The Office of Early Learning at the Department of Public Instruction shared several updates to the Remote Learning pages on the OEL Google Site

  • Week 4, NC standards-aligned, Remote Learning activities for children birth through 2nd grade are now available. These activities do not require the use of technology. Weeks 1-3 are also available, with Week 5 to be posted on Thursday, April 9.

  • On the Digital Remote Learning page, there are additional links under the “Resources for Families” section. These include more remote learning activities that can be done at home without the use of technology.

  • On the Digital Remote Learning page, there are also new digital resources for children.

Child Care Health Consultants

The NC Child Care Resource Center, the Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Partnership for Children, with local Partnerships for Children, have increased coverage of Child Care Health Consultants to make a health professional with education and experience in child and community health and child care and specialized training in child care health consultation available in every county in North Carolina. CCHCs are available to answer health and safety issues related to COVID-19 for early educators as well as Child Care Consultants and other consultants who are assisting facilities. Click here to find a CCHC in your county.

Healthcare

Community Care for NC (CCNC) is offering a new telehealth program through DocsInk, a local healthcare communication company based in North Carolina. The program is being offered at no cost to any prescribing clinician actively participating in Medicaid’s Carolina Access Program, Community Care Physician Network, or the Pregnancy Medical Home program.
 
Beginning Monday, April 6, interested providers can go to https://connect.docsink.com/registration/ccnc to sign up and create a new telehealth account. There is no cost to practices initially, but after three months (July 31, 2020), individual practices will be able to continue utilizing the DocsInk Platform at tiered pricing based on discounted rates negotiated by CCNC. More information here.

April 3:

Early Care and Education

The Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) released today the COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policy. DCDEE will make Subsidized Child Care Program payments to ALL subsidized child care providers for March, April, and May service months, regardless of whether the facility is open or closed. The payment amount for March, April, and May will be consistent with the March payments for February services.
 
The COVID-19 Child Care Payment Policy provides detailed information about policy changes that apply to licensed or regulated child care facilities for the months of April and May 2020 related to:
  1. Subsidized Child Care program payments
  2. NC Pre-K Program payments 
  3. Emergency Child Care Subsidy program payments, and 
  4. Bonus payments to child care teachers and staff providing services during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

These payments are subject to the availability of funding. Questions? Call the DCDEE Subsidy Unit (919-814-6380) or the DCDEE Early Education Branch (919-814-6345).

April 2:

Financial Security for Families

This NCECF post shares guidance for accessing COVID-19-related financial supports for families that have been authorized in recent state and federal policy changes. 

Early Care and Education

NCDHHS is holding a webinar to review and discuss the latest COVID-19 Health Guidance for Child Care Settings. The webinar will:
  • Review the updated health, screening, and safety guidelines for child care providers that remain open to provide needed child care for essential workers. 
  • Discuss screening and exclusion criteria and enhanced health and safety practices in child care during the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Panelists will include:

  • Kristi Snuggs, EdD, Interim Director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education
  • Jacquie Simmons, MScPH, Project Director, NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center/UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
  • Amy Petersen, RN, Child Care Health Nurse Consultant, NC Division of Public Health.
  • Regional Health Consultants Lisa Shifflett, RN and Theresa Stenersen, RN will be present to answer questions.
There are two dates/times scheduled for the webinar — choose the one that works best for you.
  • Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 11:00am to 12:30pm. Attendee link. Password:  covid19
  • Friday, April 3, 2020 1:00pm to 2:30pm. Attendee link. Password:  covid19

April 1:

Access to Early Care and Education

NC DCDEE has shared guidance and an application for parents to submit to obtain financial assistance for emergency child care. To be eligible for assistance, parents must:
  • Be defined as an “essential worker,” such as emergency staff, first responders, public safety officers, hospital staff, front-line healthcare providers, nursing and adult group home staff, child care program staff, food services staff, and others deemed essential workers by the Governor’s Executive Order 121.
  • Have household gross income below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) ($65,160 for a family of three; $78,600 for a family of four)
  • Have no other child care option.

Child care providers who choose to stay open or re-open in the coming weeks are asked to print copies of the form and guidance and make them available to parents to complete. Parents turn in the forms to their child care providers.

Providers are also asked to print copies of the North Carolina Voter Registration Application (English version, Spanish version) and have them available for parents to complete if they wish to register to vote. Providers are asked to track attendance manually for now, starting today.

March Updates:

March 31:

Healthcare and Food Assistance

NC DHHS is temporarily increasing benefits for March 2020 and April 2020 to current Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) recipients in North Carolina. All families that receive FNS will receive the maximum amount allowed for March 2020 and April 2020 for their household size and will begin receiving the increased benefit on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card on April 1 and April 22. They will be randomly generated and staggered every other workday until all eligible households have received their temporary increases. Recipients will continue to receive their regular benefits and should be aware they will receive two separate payments for March and two for April.

To check availability of benefits families should: 

  • Call 1-888-622-7328.
  • Visit www.ebtedge.com. Click on More Information under EBT Cardholders.
  • Download the ebtEDGE mobile app. The app is available as a free download on the Apple Store and Google Play.

Additional related measures to limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • FNS certification periods will be extended so that beneficiaries don’t have to visit county Social Services offices to qualify for continued services.
  • Work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents are being temporarily and partially suspended, since businesses are forced to close.

Families and individuals who do not currently receive benefits can apply online with ePass.

Questions? Call 1-866-719-0141 or more information here.

March 30

General Information

Governor Cooper’s Stay at Home Order takes effect at 5 pm today. Executive Order 121 reduces the size of gatherings to 10 people, provides for essential businesses to continue to operate while prioritizing social distancing measures, and orders North Carolinians to stay at home except for performing essential work activities such as taking care of others, obtaining necessary supplies, and for health and safety purposes. The Order has the force of law and will be enforced in all 100 counties statewide. FAQs answered here.

Public Comment for House Select Committee on COVID-19: NC House Speaker Tim Moore has established a House Select Committee to respond to COVID-19 and created a portal to collect public comments. North Carolinians can share COVID-19 concerns and needs around healthcare, education, financial support, emergency svcs, public safety, and elections.  
 
Factsheet on what to do if you are sick. Updated one-pager from DHHS. 
 
The COVID-19 dashboard has been updated, and now includes the following information for North Carolina:
  • Number of Cases Statewide and by County
  • Number of Deaths Statewide and by County
  • Number of Tests Completed
  • Number of People Currently Hospitalized
  • Percent of Cases by Age Range
  • Percent of Deaths by Age Range
  • Percent of Cases by Gender
  • Percent of Deaths by Gender
  • Number of Intensive Care Unit Beds – Total and Empty
  • Number of Inpatient Hospital Beds – Total and Empty

Healthcare and Food Assistance

Food Assistance: Parents who need food assistance for their children can text FOODNC to 877-877 to locate nearby free meal sites. The texting service is also available in Spanish by texting COMIDA to 877-877. Additionally, No Kid Hungry NC has created a map of local school sites, community organizations, and food assistance programs across North Carolina where families can access food. The interactive map is updated daily.
 

Early Childhood Care and Education

Webinars this week for Child Care Providers: NC DHHS leadership will host webinars on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic to equip child care providers with what they need to know and do and provide guidance about what to expect as the situation progresses. Topics will include:  

  • Current status of the COVID-19 crisis in North Carolina
  • COVID-19 Emergency Child Care Provider Application
  • Financial Assistance for Providers
  • Financial Assistance for Parents
  • Resources available
  • Q&A session

There are four time slots. The presentation will be the same during each one:

  • Monday, March 30, 2020 – 3:00-4:30 pm. Attendee Link.Password: covid19
  • Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – 11:00 am-12:30 pm. Attendee Link.Password: covid19
  • Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – 1:00-2:30 pm. Attendee Link.Password: covid19
  • Tuesday, March 31, 2020 – 3:00-4:30 pm. Attendee Link.Password: covid19

Updated Guidance for Child Care Providers: The Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) has provided updated guidance (as of March 26) for child care providers. The guidance addresses:

  • New guidelines and application to remain open or re-open if currently closed. Child care providers who wish to remain open must complete the application form by midnight on March 31.
  • Financial assistance for child care facilities, including:
    • Bonus pay for all full-time child care employees for April and May
    • Subsidy payments for April and May will be at least the amount paid for February 2020 attendance
    • Parent subsidy co-payments for April and May will be paid to providers by NCDHHS and costs to parents are to be waived
    • NC Pre-K providers, regardless of site location or if the program is open or closed, will be paid fully through the remainder of the program year, based on February attendance.
  • Financial assistance for critical workers:
    • A Critical Worker Emergency Child Care Subsidy program will provide financial assistance during April and May to eligible parents/primary caregivers who are critical workers and who do not have other child care options. 

Help for child care providers finding supplies, food or other needed resources: DCDEE announced that local Smart Start partnerships will be serving as liaisons between child care providers  who are troubleshooting problems (e.g., finding food, cleaning supplies) and local resources to help meet needs, including the County Emergency Management. Child care providers should reach out to their Local Partnership, which will connect them with appropriate resources and act as an advocate on their behalf. Questions should be addressed to Safiyah Jackson (sjackson@smartstart.org) at the North Carolina Partnership for Children.

Health issues support: Every child care program now has access to a child care health consultant to take health-related calls and emails.

Accessing Child Care: A toll-free number, 1-888-600-1685, offered through the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Network can connect families to available care options. 

 

K-3 Education

  • Education funding flexibility. The Governor has provided financial flexibility with education funds to address needs arising from COVID-19.
    • Guidance to DPI and the State Board of Education (March 24) creates a $50 million flexible funding stream at DPI, funded with unused FY 2018-19 carry forward funds, currently unspent FY 2019-20 Summer Reading Camp funds, and funds from the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund. The guidance also allows for flexibility in many other education funding streams.
    • The additional and newly flexible funds can be expended for school nutrition, school and community-based child care, cleaning and sanitizing schools and buses, protective equipment, and remote learning.
    • The State Board of Education agreed on a formula to disperse the additional funding (March 27): Half will be distributed based on the number of children living in poverty in each district and the other half based on the number of children in each district.
  • School staff will be paid. The State Board of Education approved the State of Emergency Leave policy, which allows school districts to continue to pay and provide benefits to eligible staff who cannot work remotely, who have child or elder care needs, or are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • End-of-grade tests. NC’s request to waive end-of-grade testing requirements has been approved by the federal Department of Education. 
  • Remote learning. While much of the shift to remote learning is happening at the school district level, the State Board of Education and DPI shared guidance defining remote learning for districts and encouraging them to focus on student progress rather than assigning grades right now for K-5 students. More guidance on final grading will be provided if school do not re-open before the end of the year.
  • Resources for young learners. The DPI Office of Early Learning has made several online resources available, including:

For additional Guidance (shared prior to March 24), click here