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New Rules for Summer Camp Are Here, & Boy is Camp Going to Look Different This Year

Parents and kids alike have been wondering, throughout the past few months of this pandemic: What on earth is going to happen to summer camp? And while we asked around for various camp professionals’ plans and opinions, it all felt pretty haphazard and play-it-by ear. Most camps were planning to stay open, although many planned to shut down or already had done so, plus there’s the whole new world of virtual camps opening up these days, piggybacking on virtual schooling and virtual story times and more.

But, today, we finally have a bit more concrete of an answer (or at least one very large guidelines document), courtesy of the American Camp Association and the YMCA of the USA. The two organizations partnered to release a set of camp guidelines for summer 2020, in hopes of stemming the spread of COVID-19.

These new guidelines were put together (and are still being developed) by a panel of experts in hygiene, design, disease management, pediatric medicine, nursing, epidemiology, safety, and more. Here are just some of their recommendations for camps that choose to open in 2020.

  • Practice social distancing as much as possible
  • Stagger meals, dining halls and meetings should be at lowered capacity
  • Stagger camper arrival / pick-up times to avoid crowds
  • Amp up hygiene, including required regular hand-washing for kids and staff
  • Increase disinfection intensity and frequency of camp equipment and facilities
  • Increase camper and staff well checks, including temperature screening for two weeks pre-camp

But still, we don’t have much of a read on how these requirements will actually affect the number of camps opening. How many camps, for example, given the lowered enrollment numbers this year, actually have the funds to staff up and meet the increased hygiene/facility disinfection requirements?

“Some camps will open with shortened sessions and have in-person camps, some camps will have virtual camping opportunities for kids who can’t attend in person, some camps are pivoting to other programs, like family camp,” Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, said on the Today show Monday. “There are going to be lots of different choices, but not necessarily looking typical this summer.”

Paul McEntire, YMCA of the USA’s chief operating officer, also spoke on the show. He explained that while “we already know a number of our overnight camps have decided not to” reopen, as SheKnows previously reported, “a lot are still in that decision-making. We do think most of our day camps will operate.”

So basically, it continues to be a case-by-case basis, with a lot of the decision-making onus thrust upon the camp owners and directors themselves. My own dear sweet sleep-away camp, where I practically lived growing up, announced its closure earlier this month — the first time it’s closed since 1942.

“For nearly two months, each of us has witnessed the impact of COVID-19, and we ache for all who are suffering, across the world and in our community,” read the announcement from the camp, Buck’s Rock, which is located in Connecticut. “We made our decision based on science and public health guidelines. The known and unknown risks of transmission conflict with our fundamental commitment to the health and safety of our families.”

“Parents can definitely expect to see safety as the first and foremost focus at camp this summer,” Rosenberg added on Today. “We know as directors that when a child feels safe, they learn and grow even more effectively.”

No surprise there. Here’s hoping every camp that does choose to open this summer is able to meet these new guidelines with flying colors — and ensure the safety of every one of the children in its care.

Send your kid to camp prepared with some of the best hand sanitizers for children.

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