Today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released eagerly anticipated new mask guidelines for kids attending camp this summer. The frustrating topic of COVID-19 and kids has left parents with many unanswered questions as the end of school year approaches (or for some, already has), and everything from summer travel to camp restrictions are on the list.
In short, the new information from the CDC states that at camps where everyone has been fully vaccinated, children 12 years and older can attend summer camp without wearing a mask or social distancing (except where required by local law).
At camps with children under 12 (who are not yet eligible for the vaccine), CDC guidance states vaccinated people (like counselors and staff) still do not need to wear masks. And young campers will still be "strongly encouraged" to wear masks indoors, and also outdoors, in crowded situations.
While certain outdoor distanced activities (determined by camps) may be the exception, when campers under 12 are indoors or crowded together for prolonged periods outside, the CDC recommends mask-wearing. For those with weakened immune systems, the guidance remains the same: wear a mask and practice social distancing.
For those camps with mixed-age groups, it may not be possible for organizers to know who is vaccinated and who is not. In that case, the CDC notes that camps may simply choose to apply its previous guidance: mask-wearing for everyone.
In an interview with NBC News, Tracey Gaslin, executive director of the Association of Camp Nursing, says, "The staff is going to have to be the role model. I tell my camp directors, just because your staff can remove masks doesn't mean they should. Kids at a camp are going to follow the leader and do what the counselor does."
While I expect the new guidelines may still feel frustrating to some parents (and as with most everything Covid-related, could be updated again a week from now), there is uplifting news: about 2.5 million adolescents have already had one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, team lead for CDC's Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, which wrote the guidance.