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Lisa Black

With summer approaching, summer camp or day camp may offer a welcome opportunity for many children to engage in outdoor sports, to play with friends, and to take part in creative activities that have been on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To guide parents, camp directors, and pediatricians in creating safe camp environments, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing newly updated interim guidance, “Guidance for Families and Pediatricians on Camp Attendance During the COVID-19 Pandemic” to help protect the health of children, adolescents, staff, and communities.

“We know children benefit greatly from spending time with other children, engaging in outdoor activities, playing, sharpening their mental skills, and finding creative outlets,” said Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on School Health, which authored the guidance. “The pandemic shut down much of that important socialization and activity, and parents likely are eager to send their children to summer camp so they can begin to regain some normalcy. When camps closely follow safety protocols, this can be a safe option.”

New information has emerged to guide safety procedures in camp settings. Evidence has shown there is limited transmission of the virus among children and staff in controlled settings when safety protocols are followed, including wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and the enhanced cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.

The greater availability of local testing and the longer planning period that camps have had to adjust their facilities and programming will also help more camps open safely in 2021. The updated guidance reflects this new knowledge and is intended for pediatricians and families as they make informed decisions on sending children to overnight/sleepaway or day camp during summer 2021.

“Parents should first talk to their pediatrician about the health of their child and the benefits of summer camp or day camp for their child,” Dr. Bode said. “They also should do their homework when selecting a camp. Find out what sorts of safety protocols the camp is following, including testing and mask requirements, and what measures are in place if a child or counselor tests positive for COVID-19. The camp also should be able to address the physical and emotional needs of all children, including those with special health care needs.”

Camp directors should be vigilant in implementing and enforcing state, local, and CDC guidance and should maintain good communication with families and campers regarding the expectation for the use of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other COVID-19 mitigation strategies, especially the requirement to remain home when ill and reporting to the camp any COVID-19 exposure or a positive test result. It is important to note that the vast majority of children, even those with medical conditions, are able to safely and effectively wear face masks with adequate practice and support as well as modeling from adults.

The group camp environment can be a challenging place to maintain some of these protocols, but the commitment of camp operators and the community to support safe camp openings is important for child health and well-being, the AAP notes. The interim guidance is here.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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