CDC Issues Updated Guidance for Camps: 3 Things to Know

A lot has changed since last summer. Camps across the nation are opening their screen doors and welcoming campers once again. And safe campers are happy campers. New CDC guidance for all types of youth summer camps offers hope to organizations for a fun-filled, Gospel-filled season. Check the updated recommendations below against your current plan.

Updates Add to a Safe Prevention Strategy

The CDC confirms that children can get infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and spread it to others. However, children are more likely to be asymptomatic or have non-specific symptoms. While children are less likely to have a severe illness, the risk transfers to staff, people with pre-existing conditions and disabilities, and children coming to your camp lacking adequate access to health care at home.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is mostly spread through close contact by respiratory droplets released when people talk, sing, breathe, sneeze, or cough. In a camp setting, the CDC says the best strategy to lower the risk of COVID-19 spread is a layered approach that may include such measures as social distancing, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated when possible. Be sure to check for updated state and local safety laws, rules, and regulations related to camps and youth—CDC guidance is meant to supplement and not replace these. 

For camps where everyone is fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp, the CDC says it is safe for camps to return to full capacity and resume activities, without masking, and without physical distancing in accordance with CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, and except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

If camp administrators are requesting that campers and staff submit documentation of COVID-19 vaccination status, this documentation should be secured consistent with applicable laws and appropriate safeguards to protect privacy and confidentiality. 

Some campers or staff might not be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine due to medical or other conditions and should be considered by camps for exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Camps will need to determine prevention strategies, accommodations, and policies for any campers or staff who do not meet their requirements.

Although people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks, camp programs should be supportive of campers or staff who choose to wear a mask. 

For camps where not everyone is fully vaccinated, the CDC's offers these new recommendations:

  1. Social distancing: The rise of “cohort” groups. Consider campers and staff who stay together throughout the day as cohorts or pods. Cohort members should remain together as much as possible and practice prevention measures such as physical distancing and healthy hygiene behaviors.

  2. Activity recommendations: Get campers outside. This is likely your goal anyway. But the CDC is recommending that as many activities as possible, including meals, should take place outside. If this is not possible, consider having meals eaten in a well-ventilated space and staggering indoor space use to allow for social distancing. For youth summer camps, the CDC says that, in general, people do not need to wear masks outdoors except in areas of substantial to high transmission, crowded outdoor settings, or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated. 

    Indoors, mask use is strongly encouraged for people who are not fully vaccinated, including children. No child under the age of 2 should wear a mask. The CDC recommends that campers who are not fully vaccinated refrain from engaging in close-contact indoor sports due to the increased risk of virus spread. These types of sports should be done outdoors, wearing a mask whenever possible, with participants keeping a distance of at least six feet away from others. If necessary, camps may consider screening testing young athletes and sports staff to facilitate safe participation.

  3. Reducing the risk: Vaccination. CDC guidance suggests that camp operators can lower the risk of COVID-19 spread by promoting and encouraging vaccination for all eligible campers and staff. According to the CDC, aggressive COVID-19 variants make prevention strategies, including vaccination, essential help to control the spread. Camp operators can review the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Information or talk to your local health department or healthcare provider for more information.

In addition to these three updated recommendations, the CDC also updated guidance for trips outside of camp. You can read the full Guidance for Operating Youth and Summer Camps. Additional guidance for overnight camps outlines strategies for before, during, and after camp

Brotherhood Mutual offers many free resources to help create a safer camp environment. You can find topics on child protection, camp kitchen safety, risk management checklists, and more. 

Updated June 11, 2021.

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.