Fun In The Sun all Summer Long - Youth And Summer Camp Reopening Guidelines

Youth and summer camps can play an important role in the lives of children, including supporting their social, emotional, and physical development. Camps provide opportunities for children to try new activities, develop relationship and social skills, and be physically active. In addition to allowing for free play and unstructured learning, many camps also incorporate educational content, which can help prevent summer learning loss. The present guidance is intended to help camp administrators operate camps while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting campers, their families, staff, and communities.

Camp administrators, in collaboration with state, local, territorial, and tribal health officials, can adapt the recommendations in this guidance to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the populations served. Implementation should be guided by what is acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. This CDC guidance is meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which camps must comply.

Planning and Preparing

Planning and preparing are two of the most important steps to take before reopening and for continuing camp operations. Each camp program should have an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) in place to protect staff, campers, families, and communities from the spread of COVID-19. Camp operators should review, update, and implement the EOP. The EOP should include steps to take when a camper or staff member has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, or tests positive for COVID-19. The EOP should be developed in collaboration with regulatory agencies, state, local, territorial, and tribal public health departments, and other organizations that support the camp program, and align with state and local licensing regulations. Camp operators should involve staff, parents/guardians, and other community partners (for example, health centers) in the development of the EOP.

The EOP should address, at a minimum, the following topics:

  • Strongly encouraging vaccination for all eligible people
  • Health screening for symptoms of COVID-19 and diagnostic or screening testing for COVID-19
  • Using multiple prevention strategies including masks, physical distancing and cohorting, residential housing arrangements for overnight camps, and improved ventilation
  • Reviewing safety protocols for staff and campers who might be at higher-risk of serious health effects if they contract COVID-19
  • Modifying camp activities to promote outdoor and other lower-risk activities
  • Traveling to and from overnight camp
  • Cleaning facilities and equipment
  • Proper use of personal protective equipment by any healthcare staff
  • Policies and practices that enable staff to stay home when they are sick, have been exposed, or are caring for someone who is sick
  • Policies and practices that allow families flexibility if campers have symptoms or test positive before arriving at camp
  • Managing suspect or confirmed case(s), including contact tracing efforts
  • Planning for an outbreak

Maintaining Healthy Operations

Camp administrators should implement several strategies to maintain healthy operations.

Protections for Staff and Campers Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19

  • Strongly encourage camp staff, including staff who are 16 and older, to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity is available to reduce the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, and help reduce risk of spreading COVID-19 to other staff and campers.
  • Offer modified job responsibilities for your staff at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions or disabilities) that limit their exposure risk.
  • Offer options for campers at higher risk for severe illness that limit exposure risk (e.g., virtual learning opportunities).
  • Establish policies that protect the privacy of people at higher risk for severe illness because of underlying medical conditions.

Regulatory Awareness

  • Be aware of local or state regulatory agency policies related to group gatherings to determine if events can be held.

Sports and Athletic Activities

When possible, sports and athletic activities should be done outdoors, wearing a mask. Campers should avoid playing close-contact or indoor sports. There is increased risk of spreading COVID-19 while playing close-contact or indoor sports. To decrease the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19, CDC recommends that campers do not engage in close-contact sports. If you choose to play close-contact or indoor sports, reduce your risk by getting vaccinated when a vaccine is available to you, wearing a mask, playing outside, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds. Camps may consider using screening testing for young athletes and adults (e.g., coaches, trainers) who support these activities to facilitate safe participation and reduce risk of transmission and adopt additional prevention strategies for youth sports.

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.
  • Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations as much as possible, including for sporting events.
  • Campers can take trips outside of camp if there is no mixing or interaction with the general public outside of the camp population (for example, hiking trips, visits to a beach or lake).
  • Perform activities that have the potential to produce respiratory droplets including singing, chanting, shouting, or playing an instrument outside. Campers and staff should wear masks and maintain at least 6 feet physical distance during these activities.
  • For recommendations on safely doing gardening activities, please see CDC’s Considerations for Outdoor Learning Gardens and Community Gardens.

Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact

  • Designate a staff person (for example, camp nurse or other healthcare provider) to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All camp staff and families should know who this person is and have that person’s contact information.

Additional Guidance for Overnight Camps

In addition to the actions listed above, overnight camps should also implement the following:

Before camp

  • If eligible, staff, volunteers, campers, and family members should get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Ideally, wait 2 weeks after completing vaccination for COVID-19 before traveling to camp.
  • Request that campers, their families, and camp staff follow guidance for travelers in the 14 days before camp arrival to reduce exposure to COVID-19. Ask unvaccinated campers and staff members to engage in a 2-week prearrival quarantine that includes physical distancing, mask-wearing when not at home, avoiding unnecessary travel, and refraining from indoor social gatherings with people outside of their households.
  • Ask campers and staff who are not fully vaccinated to provide proof of a negative viral test taken no more than 1–3 days before arriving at camp. Delay arrival for campers or staff with confirmed positive test results.
    • CDC does not recommend getting tested again in the three months after a positive viral test if the person does not have symptoms of COVID-19. Campers and staff who have had a positive viral test in the 3 months prior to starting camp and have met the criteria to end isolation should have a letter from their healthcare provider documenting the positive test date and stating the individual is cleared to end isolation.
  • Refer camp staff, campers, and their families to CDC’s Travel During COVID-19 page for more details about preparing to travel, including recommendations about staying safe during travel such as wearing a mask in public settings.

During camp

  • Campers and staff should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, as well as a known recent close contact with a confirmed COVID case, when entering the camp (or before boarding camp transportation).
  • Upon arrival at camp, campers should be assigned to cohorts that will remain together for the entire camp session without mixing with other campers and staff in close contact circumstances.
  • Consider campers and staff who are staying together in a cabin, bunkhouse, or similar defined space a “household cohort.” Household cohort members do not need to wear masks or physically distance when they are together without non-household cohort members nearby. Campers and staff should always wear masks when together unless staff are part of the household cohort and sleep in the same space as campers. When different household cohorts are using shared indoor or outdoor spaces together during the day or night, continue to monitor and enforce mask use, physical distancing, and healthy hygiene behaviors for everyone.
  • Screening testing can help to identify cases of COVID-19, prevent secondary transmission, and help with contact tracing. Screening testing is particularly valuable in areas with moderate, substantial, and high levels of community transmission. Screening testing may allow camps to move between different testing strategies as community prevalence (and therefore risk assessment) changes.
  • For camp sessions that last at least one week, screening testing should be done 3–5 days after arrival at camp in accordance with CDC travel guidance. Fully vaccinated asymptomatic people without an exposure can refrain from routine screening testing.
  • Conduct daily symptom checking to monitor the health and well-being of camp staff and campers during the camp session.
  • Staff should clean and disinfect bathrooms regularly (e.g., in the morning and evening, after times of heavy use) using EPA-registered disinfectant.
  • Increase ventilation in buildings, such as cabins and dining halls to increase air exchange and air filtration. If possible, open windows (if safe to do so), use portable air cleaners, and improve building-wide filtration.
  • Make sure that campers have more than one mask on hand so that they can easily replace a dirty mask with a clean one.

After camp

  • Camp staff and campers who are not fully vaccinated should get tested with a viral test 3–5 days after traveling home from camp AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. Fully vaccinated people should follow current guidance for domestic travel and may not need to be tested or self-quarantine after camp unless they are experiencing symptoms.