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What to Know About Camp this Year

Plan to be flexible as you prepare for 2021 summer camp in Colorado.

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Heading into a second summer with COVID-19 concerns hanging on, planning for summer camps will require yet another level of research. Along with classic issues such as how to choose a camp and what to pack, parents now have real-world concerns such as quarantine procedures and socially distant gatherings.

As with many other public venues, camps are subject to state and local regulations. At press time, Colorado day and residential camps are operating under Colorado Public Health Order 20-36, which denotes the varying levels under which camps can operate depending on community spread and the COVID-19 dial.

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Various organizations including the American Camp Association (ACA) and the Colorado Camps Network are working with the governor’s office, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) to develop clear guidance for both overnight and day camps regarding summer 2021 camp.

“While camps have experience managing communicable diseases in the past, this summer requires a very thoughtful and informed approach when it comes to COVID-19,” says Reid McKnight, administrative director at Geneva Glen Camp. McKnight is part of Colorado’s Advisory Committee on Licensing of Child Care Facilities and volunteers with the ACA, serving as chair of the Colorado and Wyoming region. He is also a member of the National Standards Commission which oversees the ACA Accreditation program. In addition, he’s preparing to send his own two children to overnight camp this summer.

The ACA encourages camps to use their Field Guide for Camp Operations to learn how to safely operate their camp programs, including the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), which are designed to reduce the risk of introducing and/or spreading COVID-19 at camp. As McKnight explains, NPIs may include health screening before and during camp, the use of face coverings, cohorting (the use of small groups), increased sanitization practices on high-touch areas, physical distancing, frequent hand washing and other hygiene practices, and increased ventilation in indoor spaces.

“There is no ‘magic bullet’ that will keep a camp COVID-free,” McKnight says. “But using a layered approach with these NPIs will help greatly reduce the risk of the disease spreading at camp.”

Given all these considerations, it is possible to safely send your child to camp this summer. In an independent report published by the CDC, researchers found that camps that utilized a multilayered prevention and mitigation strategy were successful in identifying and isolating asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and preventing secondary transmission.

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McKnight shared these important considerations for families when preparing for summer camp in the age of COVID.

Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions—any question is a valid one. Well-prepared camps will be glad to share their plans and discuss if camp is right for your child this summer. But, bear in mind that they may not have all the answers right now, as they await guidance from state and local health departments. Here are some questions to explore during your research:

In our new normal, camps will have updated safety guidelines, but the essence of the experience remains the same, including, says McKnight, “a sense of belonging, opportunities for challenges, and immersive experiences—all under the supervision of role models in a safe and supportive environment.”

Kelly Smith is an award-winning editor and writer who lives with her family in the Denver area.

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