Camps can be a fun way for children to make friends, learn new skills, and spend time
outdoors. After most
schools closed during spring because of COVID-19, you may be looking for a summer camp to help your kids begin to reconnect with other children outside the home. But with coronavirus still spreading, you may also have concerns about your child's safety at camp.
Here are some questions you can ask when looking for a camp for your child this summer:
How will the camp help children follow coronavirus safety rules?
Camps should have age-appropriate ways to help children practice healthy hygiene, stay a
safe distance from others, and wear
cloth face coverings (if they are over age 2) whenever possible and practical. This can be a challenge, especially for younger campers, so they will need a lot of reminders. Staff should also be practicing these safety rules, including wearing cloth face coverings and supplying hand
sanitizer stations with easy access for frequent use.
Will most activities be indoors or outside?
Having activities outdoors, with more fresh air and room to spread out, can lower the risk of spreading COVID-19. However, even outside, it is still important to take steps to help prevent sharing germs. Camps should limit shared equipment for games and activities and to be sure to clean them often.
How will campers move throughout the day at camp?
Camps should keep campers together in small groups with dedicated staff throughout the day, when possible, to minimize risk of spreading the virus. Staggered arrival and drop-off times may also help limit contact between groups.
How will campers and staff be monitored for illness?
Ask camp directors how they plan to watch for signs of campers or staff getting sick. This may include daily temperature screening and/or
symptom checking. This should be done safely and respectfully, following state and local public health guidance as well as privacy laws.
What happens if someone gets sick?
All camps need a plan for what to do if a camper or staff member starts having symptoms of COVID-19, or any other illness. The plan should be based on public health guidelines and policies about how to respond and report suspected COVID-19 cases. Camp directors also need to know if and where COVID-19 testing is available if it is included in the camp response plan.
Is there camp staff trained on the specific health needs of children?
Children attending camp may be afraid of being away from home and meeting new people after months of sheltering in place. The AAP recommends that camp health providers have specialized training in children's health and emotional well-being. Counselors should also have training available to help children cope with stress they may be experiencing.
What kind of support is available for campers with special health care needs?
Camp directors should aim to meet the needs of all children. Some children with special health care needs or disabilities may need accommodations so they can enjoy camp while being protected against COVID-19. If your child has special health care needs, talk with camp directors and your pediatrician to identify what specific accommodations your child may need. Existing plans, such as
Individualized Family Service Plans and Individual Education Plans, can be helpful.
How will snacks and meals work?
It may be safest for campers to bring their own meals, if possible, and eat in separate areas or with their smaller group. This would be less risky than communal dining halls or cafeterias. Ideally, children should also be allowed to bring their own water bottles rather than drinking from water fountains.
Should my child be tested for COVID-19 before going to camp?
According to the
antibody blood test results should not be used to guide decisions about going or returning to group settings such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities. The AAP recommends that this guidance be applied to camps, as well. Antibody tests only show if someone had the virus at one point in time. They can't identify someone who still has an active infection
without symptoms, for example. Also, a camper who is negative for COVID-19 on the first day of camp may not remain negative throughout the camp session.
diagnostic COVID-19 test can be useful when a camper or a staff member had a known exposure to COVID-19, or is showing coronavirus symptoms. In these cases, test results can help guide decisions such as who can return to camp safely, when to notify families whose children may have been exposed, or whether the camp should be closed.
What extra steps are being taken at overnight camps?
Camps where children and teens will be staying overnight should take extra precautions. When looking at overnight camps, ask if children will bunk with their daytime groups, for example. You can also ask how sleeping areas will be arranged. Lining up mats or beds so that campers and staff sleep head-to-toe at least 6 feet apart can help limit risk. Barriers such as screens between sinks and beds can also help, especially when they can't be spaced far enough apart.
If the program will be hosting campers from different parts of the country, this is a possible risk to be weighed by families.
Camps that follow recommended safety steps during the pandemic can reduce, but not completely avoid, the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. For some children with conditions that make them more likely to get severe COVID-19 illness, camp may be particularly risky. Talk with your pediatrician about your child's individual medical history and health needs to help you decide if your child is at increased risk, or if you have any other concerns about your child's health.