Summer camps can be a chance for children and teens to make friends, learn new skills, and spend time
outdoors. Kids have missed out on a lot of these opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You may be looking for a camp where your child can relax and reconnect this summer, but worried since COVID-19 continues to spread. More than a year into the pandemic, studies show that camps with proper safety steps in place can greatly limit the spread of COVID-19 infections. Key steps include
COVID-19 vaccination, physical distancing, smaller groups, indoor
hand hygiene, and
cleaning and disinfecting as part of the daily routine.
If you're considering camp for your child this summer, whether it's a just during the day or an overnight or residential setting, here are some questions to ask:
Will masks be required indoors at camp?
All campers over age 2 and all camp staff should wear face masks indoors, unless advised against it medical or developmental reasons--especially if not everyone is vaccinated. In general, masks do not need to be worn for outdoor activities except in crowded settings where there is a lot of close contact.
Will everyone be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before camp starts?
All camp staff who are eligible should be
fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp. All eligible campers ages 12 years and above should also be encouraged to be fully vaccinated. If a camp operates with all staff and campers that are fully vaccinated, then additional COVID-19 safety measures, such as physical distancing are not needed while at camp.
How will the camp help younger children follow coronavirus safety rules?
Camps should have age-appropriate ways to help children practice safety measures such as healthy hygiene and staying a
safe distance from others whenever possible and practical. This can be a challenge, especially for younger campers, so they will need a lot of reminders.
Will most activities be indoors or outside?
Having activities outdoors, with more fresh air and room to spread out, can lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 among unvaccinated children. Being outside also gives children a way to connect with nature, which can boost their health and
mental health after a long, stressful year. However, even outside, it is important to avoid sharing germs. Camps should limit shared equipment for games and activities and clean them often.
Are there extra safety steps taken for sports camps?
In addition to the general safety steps for overnight and day camps, sports camps should follow
special safety guidance for drills, practices and competitions. This includes local and state rules, which can vary widely.
How will campers and staff be monitored for illness?
Camp directors should have a plan for campers or staff who get sick. It should follow state and local public health guidance as well as CDC, American Camp Association and the AAP. The plan may include daily temperature screening and symptom checking, for example.
What happens if someone gets sick?
Camps should have plan for what to do if a camper or staff member starts having symptoms of COVID-19, or any other illness. This should be based on local or state public health guidelines and policies about how to respond and report suspected COVID-19 cases. They should provide clear information to staff, campers and their families about when and how long to stay home if they become sick or have close contact with some who has COVID-19.
Is there camp staff trained on the specific health needs of children?
Children attending camp may be afraid of being away from home and gathering face-to-face with others after a lengthy time at home. The camps health providers should have specialized training in children's health and emotional well-being. Counselors should also have training available to help children cope with
stress they may be experiencing.
What kind of support is available for campers with special health care needs?
Camp directors should aim to meet the needs of all children. Some children with special health care needs or disabilities may need special accommodations so they can enjoy camp while being protected against COVID-19. If your child has special health care needs, talk with camp directors and your pediatrician to identify what specific accommodations your child may need. Existing plans, such as
Individualized Family Service Plans and Individual Education Plans, can be helpful.
How will campers move throughout the day at camp?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), small groups of campers with dedicated staff, when possible, will help minimize COVID-19 risk for unvaccinated children. Staggered arrival and drop-off times may also help limit contact between groups.
How will snacks and meals work?
It may be safest for campers bring their own meals, if possible, and eat in separate areas or with their smaller group. This would be less risky than dining halls or cafeterias. Ideally, children should bring their own water bottles rather than drinking from water fountains.
Should my child be tested for COVID-19 before or during camp?
diagnostic COVID-19 test can be useful when a camper or a staff member had a known exposure to COVID-19, or is showing coronavirus symptoms. In these cases, test results can help guide decisions such as who can return to camp safely, when to notify families whose children may have been exposed, or whether the camp should be closed.
antibody blood tests should not be used in decisions about going to camp. These tests only show if someone had the virus at one point in time. They can't identify someone who still has an active infection
without symptoms, for example. Also, a camper who is negative for COVID-19 on the first day of camp may not remain negative throughout the camp session.
In general, children who are fully vaccinated and show no symptoms of illness do not need routine testing for screening purposes or after close contact.
What extra steps are being taken at overnight camps?
When looking at overnight camps, ask if children will bunk with their daytime groups and how sleeping areas will be arranged. Lining up mats or beds so that campers and staff sleep head-to-toe at least 6 feet apart can help limit risk.
Before choosing a camp, talk with your pediatrician to make sure your child is up-to-date on vaccines. Your pediatrician can help you choose a camp that suits your child's medical, emotional and behavioral needs while helping them have a healthy, positive experience.