Infectious Disease

CDC is updating instructions for overnight children’s summer camps

April 27, 2021

2 min read

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The CDC updated its guidelines for summer and overnight camps for children, which include recommendations on prevention, vaccination, physical distancing and approaches to maintaining a healthy environment.

Currently, no one under the age of 16 can get a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. For this reason, the CDC recommends that even if all camp staff are vaccinated, camps should continue with all preventive measures, including wearing masks and exercising distancing.

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Physical distancing strategies should be in place in all camps, especially in cohorts or groupings of campers and staff during the day, to minimize exposure to others during the day, the CDC said. In cohorts, there should be at least 3 feet of physical distance between all indoor and outdoor campers. If you are outside of cohorts, all campers and camp staff should be kept a minimum of 6 feet apart. A distance of two meters should also be maintained when eating and drinking.

The CDC noted that the following prevention strategies and approaches are available to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in camp programs:

  • Stay at home if necessary. Those who come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who have tested positive themselves should stay at home and be quarantined. Those who are fully vaccinated and still show symptoms of COVID-19 should also isolate themselves.
  • Masking. All camps should require all campers, staff and visitors to use well-fitting masks consistently and correctly with adequate filtering.
  • Maintaining an adequate supply. All camps should ensure access to sinks and sufficient soap, paper towels, handkerchiefs, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, masks and touchless or foot pedal trash cans.
  • Screening and symptom monitoring. Parents and guardians should monitor their children for symptoms prior to camp. If possible, conduct daily health checks for both camp staff and campers. Camps should also connect with community providers who offer tests. Weekly screenings of unvaccinated employees also help.

The CDC offered the following strategies and approaches to ensure a healthy environment:

  • Cleaning and desinfection. Cleaning agents should not be used around children. When warehouses use buses or transport vehicles, drivers should clean their vehicles. Camp staff should clean and disinfect surfaces more frequently if either high community transmission, low masks, infrequent hand washing, or if the camp involves people at increased risk of serious illness.
  • Limit the ways you can divide objects, especially objects that are difficult to clean. The belongings of every camper should be separated from those of others and individually marked.
  • All camp activities should take place outdoors as much as possible. When indoors, try to let in as much fresh air as possible to improve ventilation.
  • Access to clean drinking water should allow all campers and camp staff to physically distance themselves. However, all campers and staff should be encouraged to bring their own water if possible.
  • While dining, let campers and staff eat as much as possible outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. All who eat should be 6 feet of physical distance.

The CDC noted that an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) should be in place for every camp program to protect employees, campers, families and communities from the spread of COVID-19. The EOP should be developed in collaboration with local and state health departments that are guided by the regulations.

If running a summer camp on public school grounds, the CDC also recommended following the agency’s K-12 school guidelines published in February.

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