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How to Keep Summer Camps Safe


On April 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out new guidelines for keeping summer camps safe. The guidelines state, in part:

“Youth and summer camps can play an important role in the lives of children, including supporting their social, emotional, and physical development. Camps provide opportunities for children to try new activities, develop relationship and social skills, and be physically active. In addition to allowing for free play and unstructured learning, many camps also incorporate educational content. The present guidance is intended to help camp administrators operate camps while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting campers, their families, staff, and communities.

“This guidance is intended for all types of youth day camps with additional guidance provided for overnight camps.
“While fewer children have gotten sick with COVID-19 compared with adults during the pandemic, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, get sick with COVID-19, spread the virus to others, and have severe outcomes.

 “COVID-19 is mostly spread through close contact by respiratory droplets released when people talk, sing, breathe, sneeze, or cough. Although less likely, it is possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own eyes, nose, or mouth. Regardless of the level of community transmission, camp programs should fully implement multiple prevention strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19. Key prevention strategies include
  • Getting vaccinated when eligible
  • Staying home if sick or having symptoms of COVID-19
  • Universal and correct use of well-fitted masks that cover the nose and mouth
  • Physical distancing, including cohorting
  • Handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes
  • Engaging in outdoor activities whenever possible and increasing ventilation for indoor activities
  • Cleaning and disinfecting to maintain healthy facilities
  • Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments
Physical distancing provides protection by reducing risk of exposure and limiting the number of close contacts when someone is infected with COVID-19. Establish camp policies and implement strategies to promote physical distancing, indoors and outdoors, of
  • At least 3 feet between all campers within a cohort
  • At least 6 feet between all campers outside of their cohort
  • At least 6 feet while eating and drinking, including among people within the same cohort
  • At least 6 feet between campers and staff
  • At least 6 feet between staff
Remember: Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally, several of which have been detected in the United States. Some of these variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which could lead to more cases of COVID-19. Rigorous implementation of prevention strategies is essential to control the spread of these variants.”

To maintain healthy camp operations, it is recommended that “all camp staff, including staff who are 16 and older, get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity is available to help reduce risk of spreading COVID-19 to other staff and campers, as well as reduce the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.”

Everyone in camp facilities must wear well-fitting masks at all times, with exceptions for certain activities such as eating, drinking and swimming. Camp policies must promote physical distancing indoors and outdoors consistent with the current recommendations for K-12 schools.

Read full details of the new guidelines at:

Key points from the updated guidance are:
  1. This guidance is intended for all types of youth day camps with additional guidance provided for overnight camps. Organizations that provide summer day camps should use the guidance. Summer learning programs on school grounds should follow CDC’s Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools.
  2. Consistent and layered use of multiple prevention strategies can help camps open safely for in-person activities; protect children, families, and staff; and slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
  3. This guidance describes physical distancing recommendations for day camps that align with current evidence for physical distancing in schools, including at least 3 feet physical distance between campers in the same cohort, except when eating and drinking (at least 6 feet); at least 6 feet physical distance between campers and staff; and at least 6 feet between campers in different cohorts. Additional guidance on physical distancing in overnight camps is also provided.
This guidance outlines strategies that camp programs can use to maintain healthy environments and operations, lower the risk of COVID-19 spread in their programs, prepare for when someone is sick with COVID-19, and support coping and resilience.

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