Illustration for article titled What the New CDC Guidelines Mean for Your Kid's Summer Camp

Photo: Nenad Cavoski (Shutterstock)

If last summer was the season of all the camps shutting down, this summer is the season for figuring out how to keep them open. As we wind down a school year that has been largely centered around schools trying to figure out how to get kids back in the classroom as safely as possible, parents are looking ahead to a summer that will hopefully feel slightly more normal than last summer—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is right on time with its updated guidelines for summer camps.

Things are starting to open back up and overall restrictions are easing as more adults become vaccinated. But kids under the age of 16 still aren’t eligible for their own shot, and new variants of the virus are emerging and circulating, so many precautions need to be put in place at day camps and overnight camps this summer.

General guidelines

The CDC guidelines recommend campers and staff be sorted into “cohorts” that will stay together throughout the day. Once sorted, here are the physical distancing recommendations:

  • 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

Masks should be worn by everyone except when they’re eating, drinking, napping (when children should be spaced out as much as possible, head-to-toe), or swimming (a wet mask can make it difficult to breathe and might not work anyway).

Whenever possible, outdoor activities are strongly encouraged. Whenever that’s not possible, the CDC emphasizes the importance of ventilating indoor areas by opening doors and windows, using fans, and decreasing occupancy (this goes for facilities, as well as any camp transportation vehicles in use). Sports and other athletic activities should be done outside whenever possible. The CDC discourages indoor sports and close-contact sports and says players should wear masks at keep six feet of distance between each other.

Other typical camp activities that have the potential to produce respiratory droplets should be done outside, with masks on, and six feet apart. That includes singing, chanting, and shouting.

The guidelines also stress the limiting of shared objects—each camper’s belongings should be separated and kept in individual, labeled containers or cubbies. Staff and campers should be encouraged to bring their own water from home to limit the use of water fountains. Campers should also have more than one mask so a dirty mask can easily be replaced with a clean mask.

Overnight camps

In addition to all of the above, the CDC also has additional recommendations for overnight camps. They suggest camps encourage eligible staff, volunteers, campers, and family members to get fully vaccinated (ideally at least two weeks before traveling to camp). They recommend unvaccinated campers and staff engage in a two-week self-quarantine before arriving. Campers and staff who aren’t fully vaccinated should provide proof of a negative viral test taken no longer than three days before arrival.

Once they arrive, campers should be screened for symptoms and assigned to cohorts that will remain together, and distanced from other cohorts. Campers and staff who are sleeping in the same space should be considered a “household cohort” and don’t need to mask or socially distance with each other unless someone from outside the cohort is present. When different cohorts come together in outdoor or indoor spaces, everyone should practice the usual masking, physical distancing, and healthy hygiene recommendations.