Summer Camp F.A.Q.: C.D.C. Guidelines and Answers From Experts

For day camps, the CDC said that children ages 2 and up should always wear masks, except when eating, drinking, swimming, or napping, and should be divided into small groups that only interact with each other. All campers must be three feet from others in their cohort (six feet when eating or drinking) and six feet from everyone else (including their own counselors). The guidelines also recommend daily symptom checks for campers and employees, as well as regular Covid-19 tests for campers, if tests are available. Staff should be tested weekly when interacting with multiple groups of campers.


April 29, 2021, 7:03 a.m. ET

If your child is attending a night camp, the CDC has recommended that anyone eligible for a Covid vaccine should get a vaccine before they arrive, ideally at least two weeks in advance. Unvaccinated participants should try to practice Covid-19 safety measures – such as avoiding unnecessary travel, physical distancing, and wearing masks in public – for two weeks before the night camp begins, and they should have a Covid-19 test perform for up to three days before arriving.

At the camp, the CDC recommended that the campers be divided into groups by cabin and that daily symptom checks and regular tests be carried out. Campers only need to wear masks and physical distance around those who are not in their bunks.

Note that federal guidelines are intended to supplement, not replace, state and local guidelines. As a result, some states may choose not to follow suit, said Tom Rosenberg, president and executive director of ACA Texas overnight camp guidelines. For example, the camps do not require campers or employees to be checked for Covid-19 before or during the camp.They recommend testing whether a motor home or employee becomes ill during their stay. And some overnight camps allow campers from different groups to mingle over time if local guidelines allow and there have been no cases, Rosenberg said.

State guidelines could also change between now and the beginning of the camp, said Dr. Lucy McBride, a Washington, DC doctor advising an overnight camp in Maine. “The landscape is changing tremendously,” she said. As such, parents may want to review camp logs just before their children’s visit to confirm what procedures are in place.

Campers who are at high risk of coronavirus complications (or their family members) may want to be even stricter with risk reduction and should be sure to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, added Dr. McBride added. The camps may even advise some families that they are better off not sending their children to camp at all. High risk families may want to see their doctors. Some camps for children with medical conditions – such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and American Diabetes Association camps – are practically running again this year for safety reasons.

Some camp traditions may not appear this year. “We’re not going to fill the loud, noisy dining room with incomprehensible shouting,” said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease doctor at Columbia University, advising a handful of camps this summer. (Campers can still sing and sing, outdoors only.) Parents likely won’t be able to visit the cubicles or even step inside the cubicles, and staff may not be allowed to leave the camp site during breaks.

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