On April 10, 2023, the President signed legislation that ended the COVID-19 national emergency and on May 11, 2023, the COVID-19 public health emergency expired. Currently, the Interim Rule’s vaccine and testing requirements are no longer in effect. However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) still strongly recommends vaccines, masking and testing as part of Head Start programs’ COVID-19 mitigation policy.
Vaccine and testing requirements are no longer in effect
On November 20, 2021, the HHS-ACF issued an interim final rule requiring federally funded Head Start programs to ensure that their staff, contractors, and volunteers were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (i.e., obtain the primary vaccination series), which was a critical step to protect the children and families served. On June 26, 2023, the HHS issued the Final Rule Removal of the Vaccine Requirements for Head Start Programs, which removed the regulatory requirement for vaccines in Head Start programs for Head Start staff, contractors, and volunteers, as well as the weekly testing requirement for individuals granted an exemption from the vaccine requirement. The interim final rule’s vaccine and testing requirements are not currently in effect as the result of a recent district court decision.
Vaccines, masking and testing are still recommended as part of mitigation policy
On January 6, 2023, ACF issued a final rule requiring Head Start grant recipients to have an evidence-based COVID–19 mitigation policy, which considers multiple mitigation strategies such as access to vaccination, masking, ventilation, and testing. Although ACF will remove the vaccine and testing requirements, ACF strongly recommends that Head Start programs use vaccines and tests as part of their mitigation policy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood of mortality or morbidity from infection. Head Start programs may choose to include their own requirements to support vaccination efforts, including for example, requiring staff remain up to date on COVID–19 boosters, sharing information on COVID–19 vaccination with staff and families, and/or partnering with local agencies to increase vaccination access.
For more information on developing a COVID-19 mitigation strategy, see the recent Program Instruction with guidance for Head Start grant recipients.
COVID-19 information and contacts
For CDE state-funded related questions regarding circumstances surrounding COVID-19, please use the designated email box: ELCDEmergency@cde.ca.gov
For any CDSS funded related questions regarding circumstances surrounding COVID-19, please contact the assigned Quality and Improvement Branch Consultant. The list of assigned consultants can be found here.
For any County questions or information related to COVID-19 please go to Hotlines and local info – Coronavirus COVID-19 Response
For any OHS-specific questions related to Head Start programs please check in with your Program Specialist.
You can find up-to-date COVID information for Head Start on the ECKLC website.