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April 26, 2021

Masks, social distancing will still be necessary at summer camps, CDC says

All eligible staffers and campers are 'strongly encouraged' to get vaccinated before arriving

Children's Health COVID-19
Summer camp COVID-19 Ken Ruinard/Imagn Content Services

The CDC says summer campers again will need to wear face masks and socially distance this year. Above, Jenna Tooley, 5, reads during a YMCA Day Camp in Anderson, South Carolina, last summer.

This summer has the potential to feel much more normal than last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed much of the usual activities. But many health protocols will remain in place as people enjoy a more traditional season.  

That includes at summer camps. 

Children in day and overnight camps still will need to wear face masks and social distance while staying within an assigned small group of campers, according to updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They must stay three feet apart from others in their groups and six feet away from all other children and staffers at camps, the guidance states.

Children only should remove their masks while swimming, napping, eating and drinking. The CDC recommends spacing children at least six feet apart during meals or any snack break. During naps or at overnight camp, they should sleep head to toe to reduce the chance of exposure.

"This guidance outlines strategies that camp programs can use to maintain healthy environments and operations, lower the risk of COVID-19 spread in their programs, prepare for when someone is sick with COVID-19, and support coping and resilience," the authors of the guidance wrote.

Camp operators also are advised to hold as many activities as possible outdoors, where the risk of transmission is lower. If an activity must be held indoors, buildings must be well-ventilated and windows kept open. Windows also should remain open in any camp transportation vehicle. 

Campers should also have their own cubbies to store their belongings and their own nap mat, which should be disinfected before and after each use, according to the guidance. The sharing of any toys or games between children should be discouraged.

Some camp activities should still be prohibited this summer, including any sports that require close contact or must be played indoors, the CDC says. Large gatherings of any kind should be avoided. Activities that include shouting, singing or playing instruments should be done outside.

Wearing a mask remains an important prevention strategy this summer. All children and camp staffers should be required to wear masks at all times, except for children under age two and people who can't wear one due to a disability, federal officials say.

Vaccinations for campers age 16 or older are also strongly encouraged, the guidance states. People working, visiting or staying at an overnight camp who have not been vaccinated will need to self-quarantine for two weeks ahead of time. They also will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last three days before arriving at the camp.

Symptom checks should be conducted when people arrive at camp and on a daily basis during their stay, the guidance also states.

The CDC emphasized that even people who have been fully vaccinated will need to wear masks around children and stay six feet away. Children under 16 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and remain at risk of contracting the coronavirus and spreading it to others.

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