CYS increases safety measures in response to HPCON change
Sarah Sempa, assistant director of the Child Development Center, sanitizes tables in the break room Dec. 10 as part of an increase in high-touch area sanitation and cleaning. (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Hill) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s Child and Youth Services upgraded sanitation and screening policies at their facilities last week in response to the rise in positive COVID-19 cases in the area and the installation’s update of the Health Protection Condition to Charlie.

According to CYS Coordinator Tamara Smith, the health and safety of everyone visiting CYS facilities is her top priority.

“We are looking to adjust or institute every procedure we can in accordance with the Army Public Health Nurse at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital to keep everyone safe,” she said. “We have hand washing or hand sanitizing stations when you enter every facility, and we started going back to our screening measures. Parents, children, staff, visitors — anybody coming into the program now is getting screened.”

Smith said an email was sent to parents last week asking them to schedule a few extra minutes into their morning routine as the screening includes a temperature check as well as answering questions related to any recent or current flu-like symptoms and contact with any person who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

In addition to screening measures, CYS also has a lobby drop-off policy — staff members escort children to their assigned classrooms to reduce the number of visitors inside the facility.

“We’ve also increased our high-touch surface area sanitation and cleaning,” Smith said. “Before, we were cleaning about every hour. Now we’ve stepped it up to about every 30 minutes. Staff members — including managers — are going around and cleaning all those high-touch surface areas: the doorknobs, counters, areas that are frequently visited and sometimes we overlook just in normal, everyday life.”

Smith said another safety measure brought about specifically from the HPCON change has been reduced group sizes.

“Our group sizes are set at 10 or fewer, including staff,” she said.

When someone — staff or child — does test positive for COVID-19, Smith said there is a set protocol in place.

“We work closely with Public Health whenever there’s a positive case or when it comes to quarantining either children or staff,” she said.

After a thorough contact trace investigation that includes reviewing video footage, Public Health provides guidance on who needs to be quarantined.

“If a staff member tests positive, we verify where they’ve been in the facility,” Smith said. “We have sign-in sheets for every room. We talk with the staff members, too, to ask them what they remember about where they’ve been. If they were eating lunch near somebody in the breakroom and neither of them had masks on, we look at that, too.”

Smith said as more is known about the virus, CYS — in accordance with Public Health guidance — has been able to adapt their sanitation efforts.

“We’re able to close down rooms versus closing down the whole program,” she said.

Along with all of the new procedures, all of the standard mitigation protocols remain in place, including mandatory face masks in every facility, frequent hand washing and social distancing of at least 6 feet.

The efforts of CYS have been “a huge help in COVID-19 response,” said Capt. Courtney Buchwald, chief of Public Health Nursing at GLWACH.

“The directors notify our department immediately when they are told someone in their facility has tested positive for COVID-19,” she said. “We work together with CYS staff to streamline contact tracing efforts and ensure that staff and parents of children who were in close contact with a confirmed positive are all notified in a timely manner and provided with the correct guidance.”

Smith said she knows these are difficult times, but she’s impressed with the resiliency her staff is showing.

“They are doing amazing under these conditions,” she said. “I know it’s difficult — it’s ever changing — but our mission to provide quality childcare for our service members on the installation does not change.”

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Commander Col. Jeff Paine called the CYS staff critical to the mission of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and the installation.

“Our top concern is for the health and welfare of our children and the caregivers who ensure our service members here can accomplish the training mission,” he said.