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North Carolina reports first death tied to childcare COVID-19 cluster

NCDHHS has reported on clusters in child care facilities and schools since late June. A daycare staff member is the first death on the report.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After starting the biweekly updates in late June, North Carolina has reported its first death tied to a coronavirus cluster in a child care setting. A staff member at child care facility Grace Filled Beginnings in Plymouth, Washington County, has died.

Grace Filled Beginnings first appeared on the Department of Health and Human Services cluster list last week, and at the latest check, the facility has eight staff members and two children with confirmed infections.

So far, at least 22 child care facilities or schools around the state have made the list, including six in the Charlotte region.

According to NCDHHS, a COVID-19 cluster is at least five confirmed cases within 14 days and "plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases."

This latest death is a sad reminder of the infection risks involved when groups get together indoors and what could be possible as the new school year gets underway.

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Last month, Atrium Health Levine Children's offered up insights from its pediatric experts as North Carolinians looked ahead to a new school year with some degree of in-person interaction expected throughout the state.

Dr. Amina Ahmed, pediatric infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at Atrium Health Levine Children’s, at the time, said limited research shed some light on how the virus could transmit between children and adults.

"In limited contact tracing studies, children don't seem to transmit to adults the way that adults can transmit to children," Dr. Ahmed said, noting that transmission from kids is still possible and should not be disregarded.

"It's important to keep the teachers socially distant and masked, as well, because, if there's transmission among the teachers, there will be transmission to the children," Dr. Ahmed said.

The state has guidance as well as requirements for child care. Mandatory measures include posted reminders to social distance, daily symptom screenings for anyone entering the building, sanitizing surfaces frequently, and masking for anyone 11 years and older when physically distancing is not possible.

See the state guidelines and requirements for child care facilities here.

Some pediatricians even put the mask cut off as young as 2 years of age.

"There is power in establishing social norms that shape what we in our children may accept as the new normal," said Dr. Janelle White, assistant medical director, general pediatrics and pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s University Pediatrics.

There are at least two Charlotte-area child care clusters that are considered ongoing: Mecklenburg County's Kindercare Providence and Iredell County's Primose School of Lake Norman. 

An updated cluster report is expected Friday. The most recent report is available here.

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