Double Trouble Early Learning Center of Wilkesboro closed for two weeks (May 14-28) due to children and staff at the private child care center being exposed to COVID-19 while at the facility, said Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard.
Willard said this exposure at the child care center, at 374 Lincoln Heights Road, Wilkesboro, resulted from at least one child there testing positive for COVID-19. No one from Double Trouble was tested at the health department.
Kelly Haight Connor, communications manager at DHHS, said she believes at least two children at Double Trouble tested positive for COVID-19. Willard said her information from DHHS was that she couldn’t disclose the number of people at a child care facility testing positive for COVID-19.
Willard said operators of Double Trouble sent letters to parents telling them that their child or children had been exposed to COVID-19 at the child care center and that their child or children needed to self-isolate for 14 days.
Double Trouble co-owner Carrie Prevette said the letters were sent on May 14, which she said was the same day the operators learned that a person connected to the center had tested positive for COVID-19 and the same day the operators closed the center for 14 days.
Prevette said the operators learned about the person testing positive from a relative of the person. “What would have happened if that person hadn’t called to tell us and we didn’t close.” She added that the person who tested positive hadn’t been at the center since May 12.
Willard said a child care center isn’t required to inform parents of children at the center or the public if a person there tests positive for COVID-19, nor is it required to close for 14 days. She said guidance from DHHS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends working with the local health department to determine next steps. Under current guidance it is recommended, but not required, that child care centers close for two to five days for cleaning and disinfecting the facility if COVID-19 is confirmed there.
Willard said it was the health department’s responsibility to inform parents in this situation. She said Double Trouble’s operators agreed to do this when the health department provided assistance and guidance to the center once notification from a private practice was received.
“I think they (Double Trouble’s operators) have gone above and beyond 100%” in their response to the situation, including by immediately notifying all parents of children at the center and closing the center, said Willard. “They did everything in their power in their response.” Willard also said she understands the importance of the services provided by child care centers.
Under N.C. General Statutes 130A-136 (communicable diseases statutes) the operator of a private daycare must report a confirmed COVID-19 case at the facility to the county health department.
“Technically we were not notified by the center. We became aware through other measures and intervened,” said Willard, referring to learning about it from a private medical practice.
Prevette said the operators believed the health department was informed when a person connected to Double-Trouble contacted the department for COVID-19 testing on May 14, the same day the center’s operators learned about the positive test results. She said the request for COVID-19 testing was turned down based on the person not meeting criteria for testing.
Prevette said the operators weren’t aware of needing to do any more to inform the health department.
She said the operators received assistance from DHHS and from Angie Rhodes, environmental health supervisor at the health department, on the matter. Prevette said they also communicated with the Wilkes Partnership for Children on May 14 for assistance.
Several child care centers closed recently due to state requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prevette said she and co-owner Linda Brown made the decision to remain open because of the increased importance of child care at this time, especially for front-line workers.