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Masks now required at Maine daycares for those ages 5 and up, recommended for ages 2-4

The latest guidance from the Office of Child and Family Services that went to effect Monday strengthens rules for child care facilities across the state.

PORTLAND, Maine — New state guidelines released Friday now require the use of face masks and coverings for staff and children in Maine child care facilities.

The new guidelines mandate mask use for children ages five and older and recommended it for those two through four. 

Many facilities across the state had to implement these changes Monday. 

"This is our first day," Camelia Babson-Haley said. "The kids are not happy about it. I went and had a conversation with them about it and said if you need a break from your mask you can go out on the playground but you also need to take a break from your friends."

Babson-Haley, who runs Youth and Family Outreach in Portland, told NEWS CENTER Maine she initially did not want her staff to have to wear to masks out of concerns over child development.

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With other safety measures in place, like symptom screening and sanitation, she felt it was critical, especially for babies, to see the faces of care providers as experts have found it impacts emotional and language development. 

"They need to see our faces and they're not going to be able to see our faces," Babson-Haley said.

Now that it is required, Babson-Haley said it has been challenging to enforce among the children, but manageable. 

"They get it, but some of them are just barely five years old," Babson-Haley said.

State officials were not available for an interview on the issue Monday. 

RELATED: All 16 Maine counties get initial go-ahead for in-person instruction in schools

The Office of Child and Family Services released the following statement: 

The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) has provided guidance to licensed child care providers throughout the pandemic to assist them in protecting the health and safety of their employees and the families they serve. This guidance has been provided knowing that it’s likely to evolve as our understanding of the virus evolves and as circumstances change. On Friday, OCFS released updated guidance to continue to help providers maintain safe environments and plan for the fall, when the beginning of the school year is expected to affect their operations

At the Catherine Morrill Day Nursery staff have been required to wear masks from the state. 

"They're not fun to wear all day long I can tell you that," executive director Lori Moses said. "A lot of people are like well masks are developmentally appropriate. Well COVID-19 is not developmentally appropriate either."

RELATED: Keeping it clean: CDC recommendations on washing masks and face coverings

Moses said the facility has found face shields help staff members stay safe while also allowing them to interact with children. 

The facility does not care for children five and older, so they are not required to wear masks. Even still, Moses said she supports the new state requirements. 

 "We need to do it so we can keep everybody safe. We keep our children safe and we keep our staff safe," she said. 

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