BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Baker announced COVID-19 testing will be available for child care and early education centers enrolled in a state-sponsored rapid testing program.

Governor Baker was joined with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Secretary of Education James Peyser and Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy at Ellis Early Education Center in Boston.

According to a news release sent to 22News from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, the Baker-Polito Administration is launching rapid antigen testing to more than 7,700 Early Education and Care affiliated child care providers.

The new Testing for Child Care provides three options for COVID-19 testing to meet programs’ specific needs. Providers can opt into any or all three: 

  • Rapid Cohort Testing:  Testing staff and children over 2 years old in a group (cohort) where there was direct exposure to an individual who is positive for COVID-19. This option tests cohorts of direct contacts (e.g., single classroom or stable family child care attendance), rather than requiring individuals to quarantine.
  • Symptomatic Rapid Antigen Testing:  Testing for staff and children over 2 years old who show symptoms related to COVID-19. This allows child care centers to quickly identify and isolate positive cases or confirm negative cases and keep children in care. 
  • Weekly Pooled Testing:  Weekly PCR testing for all consenting staff and children over 3 years old. 

The free rapid antigen tests are expected to be distributed the week of January 31. Child care programs must enroll with Neighborhood Villages before January 24 to begin testing the week of January 31st.

Additional COVID-19 Resources Available to Child Care Providers:  
No-Cost, Drive-through COVID-19 Testing 
EEC continues offering no-cost COVID-19 drive-through testing for the child care community at eight locations across Massachusetts. Information on EEC’s mobile testing sites can be accessed here.
 
Statewide Contract Support for Anitgen Test Kit Purchasing
Programs that want to purchase their own antigen tests now have access to the Statewide Contract set up by the Baker-Polito Administration to provide antigen tests at state-negotiated rates for eligible entitles. 

Supplemental Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for Child Care 
Open and operating EEC-licensed providers continue to be able to order supplemental PPE supplies and have them delivered directly to the program at no cost to them. 
 
Mobile Vaccination Clinics 
The Baker-Polito Administration offers mobile pop-up vaccination clinics that take place in a community-based setting, including schools and child care centers. The clinics are organized to bring vaccines to a community setting and are available to employers, schools and school districts, community organizations, and other groups.  

“This comprehensive testing program is designed to ensure children can safely continue learning and receiving quality care while parents are working,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Child care is a key piece of the infrastructure supporting the Commonwealth’s economy, and this testing program will help to eliminate one of the challenges parents and employers face every day.”

“Child care programs have continued to operate despite challenging circumstances throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and working parents of young children have oftentimes been struggling to get back to work consistently,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Our goal is to provide child care programs with the resources they need to operate on a continuous basis and for our families to have access to tests and the information they need to remain in care.”

“It is critical that we provide child care programs with the necessary tests and supports to remain operational throughout this time,” said Education Secretary James Peyser. “We know even our earliest learners get enormous benefits from being in person with their peers and teachers. This testing strategy, layered on top of the other mitigation strategies that EEC has already put in place, will help to continue to make that possible for young children across the Commonwealth.”

“This program is part of EEC’s multi-faceted plan for addressing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on child care providers and the parents that depend on safe, reliable care for their children so they can return to work,” said EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy. “Expanding our testing options for the early education sector is one way we can keep experienced educators safe, healthy, and providing quality care for families.” 

“We are excited about these enhancements to the testing program. They will offer child care providers across the state multi-pronged testing strategies and additional support,” said Neighborhood Villages Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Sarah Siegel Muncey. “Testing in early childhood is one of the fastest, most effective investments we can make right now to keep child care centers open and our educators, children, and families safe – while also allowing our parents to continue to work. I want to thank Governor Baker and his Administration for their ongoing partnership and commitment to this important issue.”