Vermont launches Tests for Tots program, providing rapid Covid tests for child-care providers

BRATTLEBORO — After complaints from parents and child care providers that young children were being left out of efforts to provide COVID-19 test kits to Vermonters [“Petition calls for state testing for youngest Vermonters,” News, Jan. 5], the state announced on Jan. 7 that it is launching what it calls the Tests for Tots program.

This program will immediately provide rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits to regulated child-care providers across Vermont.

As described by the state, the new program builds on the success of the Test to Stay program in Vermont's K-12 schools, in which close contacts of positive cases take daily rapid tests before the beginning of classes. The state says thousands of in-person instruction days for students have been saved through this regimen.

Tests for Tots expands this effort to child-care providers, allowing them to test children and staff when a positive COVID-19 case is detected at their program.

Test kits will be provided for children between the ages of 2 and 5, as well as for child-care program staff. The tests can be administered at home, and are limited to children over the age of 2, which is consistent with their emergency use authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“This approach will safely decrease the burden of contact tracing for child-care program staff, while limiting the impact of quarantines on children, their families, and staff,” said Gov. Phil Scott when he unveiled the program last week. “With a limited supply of rapid tests at the federal level, Vermont has prioritized our inventory for our kids.”

To participate in the program, child-care providers will register for test kits and pick them up at locations throughout the state. The Child Development Division (CDD) of the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) has begun to tell providers how to enroll in the program.

According to program guidelines listed at

• Child-care staffers should identify close contacts after a person is found to be infectious. For five days, all unvaccinated close contacts, or children from 2 to 5 years old, should be tested daily - by parents or guardians - before arriving at the child-care center.

• Someone who tests positive for the virus should stay home and isolate for five days.

• While the program recommends that child-care providers ask parents/guardians and staff each day about test results, proof of a negative test is not required.

• If a case of infectious COVID-19 is found at the child-care center, it is recommended that all children between 6 weeks and 23 months of age be isolated from older children participating in the testing regimen. If they cannot be isolated at the center, they must quarantine at home.

• Fully-vaccinated adults, as well as anyone who has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 90 days, are exempt from these guidelines.

The state says it will continue to monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations and explore what other rapid testing options might become available for broader use at child-care programs.

COVID-19 symptoms can include fever (100.4 degrees F or higher), coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

The Vermont Department of Health recommends testing for people who have these symptoms, who have had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or who have recently attended an event with people who are not in their usual social circle.

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