Making a Safe Return to Summer Camp

Making a Safe Return to Summer Camp

CDC Offers Recommendations for Reducing the Spread of COVID-19

The warmer weather is beginning to make its way across the country and that means summer is almost here. A tradition for some children is to head to a summer youth camp to enjoy fun in the sun, make new friends and learn new skills. As increased vaccinations make it possible to reengage in community activities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while at camp, and keep campers safe.


Keep Safety Top of Mind
“I know children are excited to get back to normal and see their friends again in a summer camp setting and as parents, we’re excited for them as well,” said Dr. Kevin Hayes, a Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton. “Thankfully, we’ve learned more about COVID-19 and how it spreads. That can help guide us to make safe decisions while engaging in our favorite summer activities.”

Dr. Hayes said COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets when people talk, cough, and sneeze. Camp administrators can take precautions to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Depending on the state and county health protocols where your favorite camp is located, there could be other precautions camp-goers may need to take into account.

“While fewer children have gotten sick with COVID-19 compared with adults during the pandemic, children can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19,” he said. “On May 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics said children represented 22.4% of new cases reported in the past week, accounting for 71,649 out of 319,601 cases. Children can also spread the virus to others. Children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”

The CDC recommends the following behaviors to help reduce spread:

Stay Home If Sick

  • Encourage employees and campers who are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home.
  • Stay home if you have tested positive.
  • Stay home if you have had close contact with someone who has tested positive and get tested before returning to social activities.

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Practices

  • Teach and reinforce handwashing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Encourage staff and campers to cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue. Be sure to discard tissue and wash your hands after.

Wear a Mask

  • Masks may be challenging for some younger camp-goers, but they should be worn when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Masks should not be placed on babies or children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious.

Sharing Objects

  • Discourage sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect.
  • Keep each camper’s belongings separated from others’ and in individually labeled containers or cubbies.
  • Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids.

Organize Cohorts

  • Cohorts (or “pods”) are groups of campers and staff that stay together throughout the day to minimize exposure to other people while at camp.
  • Cohorts should have the same staff stay with the same group of campers and remain together as much as possible.
  • Limit mixing between cohorts.
  • Cohorting should not replace other prevention measures, including wearing masks.

Modify Camp Activities

  • Campers and staff should participate in activities outdoors whenever possible, while wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.
  • They should not wear masks when swimming or during other water activities but should stay 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings where physical distancing between people cannot be maintained. Limit group size to the extent possible.

“Taking these precautions can help make a difference in preventing the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing children to engage in summer fun activities,” said Dr. Hayes. “I also strongly encourage adults and staffers at the camps to get vaccinated before heading to camp.”

The CDC also issued guidelines on the levels of risk stating that the more people a camper or staff member interacts with, along with the length of that interaction would have a higher risk of COVID-19 spread. The lowest risk is small groups of campers that stay together all day, not sharing objects, with outdoor activities that are at least 6 feet apart, and all of the campers are from the same local area.

“Youth and summer camps can play an important role in the lives of children,” said Dr. Hayes. “Camps can support their social, emotional, and physical development. We hope that families who feel confident and comfortable with COVID-safe recommendations, have a great time at camp, and feel a bit of normalcy that our children need right now.”

Vaccination appointments are available at ThedaCare. To schedule your appointment, just log into your MyThedaCare account and click on the Schedule Now icon.