T/TAS News and Updates
New Requirements for COVID-19 Vaccination and Masking
- J. Christopher Watkins
- Monday, November 29th, 2021
The new standards will require vaccination against COVID-19 for all staff, contractors working directly with children, and volunteers. The HSPPS will require these individuals to be vaccinated by January 31, 2021. This means staff, certain contractors, and volunteers must have their second dose in a two-dose series or first in a single-dose by January 31, 2022. There will be provisions for exemptions to the vaccination requirement for those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances. For those granted a vaccine exemption, there will be a weekly testing requirement.
The Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) is now posted in the Federal Register, and the 11/22/21 announcement from Dr. Bernadine Futrell, Director of OHS, is provided below.
Expected Requirements for COVID-19 Vaccination and Masking: A Letter from the Director
Providing comprehensive Head Start services to the children and families who need them most is a driving focus for everyone in the Head Start community – at the federal level, at the agency level, and at the classroom level. To that end, I am sending this letter to share with the Head Start community an early update on the rule that will revise the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) to include additional health and safety requirements. While we cannot share all the details until the rule is published, we want you to have as much information as possible now for planning purposes.
The health and well-being of Head Start children, families, and staff continue to drive the decisions we make at the Office of Head Start (OHS), as they have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the requirement for programs to deliver fully in-person comprehensive services, these new HSPPS are essential to create the safest environment possible for staff, children, and families. At the same time, I know some staff and programs are deeply concerned about the requirement for vaccination. I hope you can talk with staff about these difficult issues and support them in speaking to a health care professional about their vaccination decision.
Soon OHS will release new HSPPS for masking and COVID-19 vaccination of grant recipient staff. These standards will be released through an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period in the Federal Register. The new requirements are critical as we work together to move toward fully in-person comprehensive services by providing healthy and safe environments for everyone.
The new HSPPS will require the use of face masks for individuals 2 years of age and older, with some exceptions. This requirement will be effective immediately upon publication.
The new standards will also require vaccination against COVID-19 for all staff, contractors working directly with children, and volunteers. The HSPPS will require these individuals to be vaccinated by January 31, 2022. This means staff, certain contractors, and volunteers must have their second dose in a two-dose series or first in a single-dose by January 31, 2022. There will be provisions for exemptions to the vaccination requirement for those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices, or observances. For those granted a vaccine exemption, there will be a weekly testing requirement.
Consistent with other HSPPS, these new standards will focus on outcomes over processes and plans. As the experts most familiar with the unique needs of each Head Start community, it will be the responsibility of local programs to establish a process for implementing these standards, including reviewing and granting the exemptions for medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs. These standards will be monitored through the OHS Monitoring System like other health and safety standards.
You may find it helpful to hear from others who have been successful in implementing similar requirements. The Strategies for Staff Vaccination series shares stories of programs across the country that have implemented vaccination requirements for their staff. The MyPeers Health, Safety, and Wellness community is a great place to find out how other Head Start programs are making policies and to share ideas and resources with each other. The OHS technical assistance system will continue to support grant recipients in implementing these new requirements.
When the new HSPPS are released in the Federal Register, OHS will host a webinar to discuss the new requirements. OHS will also provide written responses to the questions that programs and staff have raised in the last few months.
Sleeve up and mask up, Head Start family, as it’s the best way we can care for and protect each other.
/ Dr. Bernadine Futrell /
Dr. Bernadine Futrell
Office of Head Start