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

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For day camps, the C.D.C. said that children 2 and up should wear masks at all times except when eating, drinking, swimming or napping, and should be broken into small groups that interact only with each other. All campers must stay 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 staff, and periodic Covid-19 testing for campers, if tests are available. Employees should be tested weekly if they interact with multiple camper groups.

If your child is attending an overnight camp, the C.D.C. advised that anyone who is eligible to receive a Covid vaccine should get one before they arrive, ideally receiving their final shot at least two weeks before. Unvaccinated attendees should try to practice Covid-19 safety measures — like avoiding unnecessary travel, physical distancing and wearing masks in public — as much as possible for two weeks before overnight camp begins, and they should take a Covid-19 test one to three days before they arrive.

Once at camp, the C.D.C. recommended breaking campers into groups by cabin, as well as daily symptom checks and periodic testing. Campers will only need to wear masks and physical distance around those not in their bunks.

Keep in mind that the federal guidance is meant to supplement, not replace, state and local guidelines. So some states may choose not to follow it, said Tom Rosenberg, president and chief executive of the A.C.A. Texas’ overnight camp guidelines, for instance, do not require camps to screen campers or the staff for Covid-19 before or during camp (though they do recommend testing if a camper or staff member becomes ill during their stay). And some overnight camps will allow campers from different groups to intermingle over time, if local guidelines allow it and there have been no cases, Mr. Rosenberg said.

State guidelines may also change between now and when camp starts, said Dr. Lucy McBride, a physician in Washington, D.C., who is advising an overnight camp in Maine. “The landscape is changing enormously,” she said. So parents may want to check camp protocols close to when their kids will attend to confirm which procedures will be in place.

Campers who are at high risk for coronavirus complications (or whose family members are) may want to be even more stringent with risk mitigation and should be sure to get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible, Dr. McBride added. Camps may even advise some families that they would be better off not sending their kids to camp at all; high-risk families may want to consult with their doctors. Some camps for kids with medical conditions — such as camps run by the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Diabetes Association — will be run virtually again this year for safety reasons.

Some camp traditions may not make an appearance this year. “We’re not going to have the loud, raucous dining hall filled with incomprehensible yelling,” said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease physician at Columbia University who is advising a handful of camps this summer. (Campers may still sing and chant, just outdoors.) Parents probably won’t be able to visit, or even step foot inside cabins at drop-off, and staff members may not be allowed to leave camp premises during breaks.

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