Working parents who have been anxiously awaiting news about summer camp now have some answers. The gist: Some camps will open this summer, but with a host of new measures—think temperature checks and smaller groups—meant to keep kids and staff protected during a historic pandemic.
Together, the American Camp Association (ACA) and the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) released guidelines detailing how camps can safely operate this summer. They are essentially an expansion of a flowchart the Centers for Disease Control issued Friday to help camp directors determine if they’re able to open while COVID-19 continues to spread.
Decisions will be made on a camp by camp basis on how to proceed. First, camps must be able to meet the baseline criteria as outlined by the CDC: They must comply with state and local orders, be prepared to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness and be able to screen children and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure to COVID-19.
Some camps will move to a virtual model, and some overnight camps have already been canceled. The ACA doesn’t yet have numbers regarding how many of its camps will operate as usual until more make their decisions, but Paul McEntire, the COO of Y-USA, told NBC News/Today that a majority of YMCAs 10,000 day camps are planning to open this summer as long as they are in compliance with state and local guidance. For camps that meet the CDC criteria for operating in-person, it’s likely to be a very different experience this year, as camps institute new procedures to protect children, parents and staff.
In addition to daily temperature checks, other changes will likely include: expanding dining spaces and staggering mealtimes to enforce physical distancing, staggered arrivals and departures, daily cleaning of sports gear and aquatic equipment and providing campers with their own equipment, such as tennis rackets or bows and arrows, for the duration of camp if possible.
Campers and counselors might be organized in smaller “households” that live, eat, wash and do most group activities together. The guidelines encourage more outdoor dining and wearing masks when activities require gatherings of more than one “household.” They also suggest restricting parents, guardians and non-essential visitors from entering the camp.
The ACA and Y-USA consulted a panel of specialists in pediatric medicine, epidemiology, infectious disease management, biological safety, industrial hygiene, organizational design and other technical specialties to craft their recommendations, and ACA President and CEO Tom Rosenberg said it was all done with safety in mind.
“Safety has always been the ruling factor for camp operations, but the arrival of COVID-19 required game-changing educational resources that summarize the potential safety steps camps should consider so children can get back some normalcy and experience the many benefits and joys of camp,” he said in a press release. “Given the months of sheltering in place and the countless hours children have logged on screens during this time, the social-emotional benefits camp can provide are even more crucial to the nation’s children now.”
Those assurances suffice for many working moms who have few other options for summer childcare. “If camp is open, we will be sending them to camp,” said Cheryl Arbitelli-McAuliffe, a college professor and mom of two in Bellmore, New York. “So we are keeping our fingers crossed for that.”
Still, some parents plan to skip camp this year. Marianne Drexler, a university program coordinator and mom of two in Durham, North Carolina, said most of the camps in her area have already switched to a virtual model for the summer, a prospect that doesn’t interest her daughters. “Truth be told, we’ve come up with a system that sort of works for us while we are working from home, so I guess we’ll just continue that. With the new data coming out about how this virus impacts kids, it just doesn’t feel safe.”
Written by Audrey Goodson Kingo for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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