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Minnesota's licensed child care providers have been told they will no longer be required to quarantine children or staff who are "close contacts" of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The move was announced this week by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which says that license holders will still be "strongly encouraged" to follow state or federal guidance on quarantining, but non-positive close contacts will no longer have to stay home.

Licensees will still be required to report positive COVID-19 cases among children or staff to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), inform families of COVID-19 exposures, and isolate anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The change comes at a time when the omicron variant is surging across Minnesota, placing extreme staffing pressures on child care professionals and many other businesses, and forcing working parents into difficult choices regarding care for their children.

Per MDH guidelines, a "close contact" exposure means being less than six feet from someone for 15 minutes or more throughout a 24-hour period, though the department notes that the virus can be submitted during even shorter periods and from longer distances.

And both MDH and the CDC recommend that unvaccinated people – including children under the age of five who are not eligible for vaccines – should be quarantined following a close contact exposure.

The Star Tribune reports that the change in requirements has prompted a mixed response from providers, with the Minnesota Association of Child Care saying that providers who will still require close contacts to quarantine may now worry that parents will be made at them for doing so.

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