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COVID-19: Are summer camps safe for kids?

Two teenage girls wearing masks and summer attire bumping elbows.

Summer camps have much to offer kids, from making friends to learning about the outdoors. And many camps are open during the pandemic. But as a parent you many wonder: Is it safe to send my child to camp?

Going to summer camp can raise the risk of getting COVID-19. Outbreaks have occurred in group settings like kids' camps. But studies show that steps can be taken to prevent and control infections in summer camps that will help keep campers, and the communities near camps, safe. And while that might mean some camp activities may be different because of these precautions, they can still be fun.

Vaccines could make a difference

COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone 12 and up. If your child can get a shot before summer camp starts, experts say you should consider getting them vaccinated. Doing so could help make camping safer.

Camps can help protect kids

If you decide to send your child to summer camp, you may want to look for one that follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for safer summer camps.

Here are some of the precautions CDC suggests camps adopt:

Cohorting. That's when a group of campers and staff stay together throughout the day. They do not mix with others.

Masks. Kids and adults who are not fully vaccinated are encouraged to wear masks indoors—and outdoors if there will be sustained close contact with others who aren't fully vaccinated.

Physical distancing. If anyone is not fully vaccinated, kids should stay:

  • At least 3 feet from campers in the same cohort.
  • At least 6 feet from campers outside their cohort.
  • At least 6 feet apart while eating and drinking indoors.
  • At least 6 feet from staff.

Checking for symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should isolate in a designated area immediately and be referred for testing. Children in overnight camps should be checked daily for symptoms of COVID-19.

Testing. Some camps may want staff who are not fully vaccinated and who work with multiple cohorts to be tested weekly for the coronavirus.

Modified camp activities. Whenever possible, camp activities should be held outdoors with social distancing.

Ventilation. If activities are held indoors, doors and windows should be open to let fresh air in.

Contact tracing. This should be used to inform families if kids are exposed to the virus.

Isolation areas. If someone does get sick at camp, there should be an area where kids can safely isolate from others, as well as transportation arrangements to home or a healthcare facility, if needed.

More rules for overnight camps

Overnight camps may take even more precautions. Campers and their families should follow CDC's advice before traveling to camp. Taking precautions will help you avoid the virus.

Reviewed 6/7/2021

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