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The COVID-19 Guidelines for Summer Camps: What Parents Need to Know

Whether day camps or overnight, summer camps give children the chance to be physically active, make new friends, and try out new skills and hobbies.

However, although pandemic numbers are improving, it is still an ongoing concern. And even with children’s and teenagers’ improved odds against the virus, they can still get extremely sick. More frequently, they act as a vector for the disease.

Therefore, if you’re considering sending your child to a summer camp this year, we advise you to look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for both family and camp personnel.

The basics

  • Social distancing. Children and staff should continue to practice social distancing from others, especially indoors.
  • Cohorting. Kids may be assigned to a “cohort” of other students who limit interaction with the rest of the children at camp to minimize the chances of transmission between students. It also allows for social distancing of only three feet between campers within the same cohort instead of six.
  • Outdoor activities. The CDC recommends that campers and staff “participate in activities outdoors whenever possible.” However, these outdoor activities should not include “close-contact” sports, as this can increase transmission risk.
  • Hand washing and sanitation. Kids should continue to wash their hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom and before/after meals.
  • Negative COVID test. Camps may request unvaccinated campers and staff to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one to three days before camp begins.
  • Travel prior to camp. The CDC also recommends that staff, campers, and their families avoid travel for at least two weeks before camp begins.

What about vaccinations?

According to the CDC:

“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

The FDA has approved vaccinations for anybody aged 12 and older. Although not a requirement, the CDC says camps should “strongly encourage” vaccinations for staff, eligible campers, and family members at least two weeks before overnight camps.  

Parents, particularly those of younger campers who cannot get vaccinated, should not hesitate to ask whether the camp’s staff and employees are themselves vaccinated. This will provide additional protection to the camp.

Before sending your child to camp

  • Monitor your kids every day before sending them to camp. If they have any symptoms, keep them at home.
  • If you, your child, or another family member in the home is exposed to COVID-19 while unvaccinated, campers should stay home.
  • The CDC also asks families to self-report any symptoms or positive cases of the virus within 14 days of attending camp.
  • Each camp should have procedures in place should an outbreak occur. Parents should know what those procedures are before agreeing to send their children to that particular camp.

The CDC stresses that these guidelines are intended to supplement state and local measures, not replace them. Every community should tailor the guidelines to meet local needs best.

For more information on the CDC’s guidelines for summer camps, visit CDC.gov.

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