This time last year many parents were preparing to pack kids' sleeping bags and adding camp dates to the calendar, but the pandemic has left many families wondering whether camp will even be possible in 2020.
According to Tom Rosenberg, the president and CEO of the American Camp Association, camp can still be an option for kids this summer, it will just look a little different.
Speaking on TODAY, Rosenberg explained that there "are going to be lots of different choices, but not necessarily looking typical this summer." He says that means "parents can definitely expect to see safety as the first and foremost focus at camp this summer," and that "For camp directors, the health and safety of our campers is paramount."
This may come as a relief to the many parents who are now working from home and desperate for something to entertain their kids (and give them some uninterrupted office hours).
Millions of children and adults attend camp during a typical American summer but nothing about the summer of 2020 is typical. According to Paul McEntire, the COO of YMCA of the USA, who also spoke to TODAY, sleepover camps may not be an option for everyone during the age of social distancing but most YMCA day camps are planning to open this summer, provided they can comply with local regulations.
So what does this mean for our kids?
The CDC has completed a guide for operating summer camps during the pandemic which includes prioritizing hand hygiene, increased cleaning and sanitization of facilities and regular screening of campers and employees. There would also need to be more space between sleeping accommodations and measures to reduce the number of people at indoor events, like serving campers in dining halls in shifts
The CDC says camps should not reopen unless they can commit to screening and social distancing practices.
According to CNBC, Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb believes "sleepaway camps have the potential to create a protective bubble" but some some parents are more comfortable with day camp during these uncertain times, which poses its own challenges as kids go home nightly and are exposed to many people outside of camp.
That's why Girl Scouts have canceled all sleepaway and day camps, the Washington Post reports. "We started with the assumption that maybe day camp would be safer," Jen Thorson, chief operating officer of the Girl Scouts River Valley council tells Minnesota Public Radio. "But if you really dig into it, with day camp, there's more people moving around, coming and going. And it became just as ... concerning in terms of the ability to maintain social distancing or reduce the number of people to come in contact with."
For some parents, even the bubble of sleepaway camp isn't enough of a guarantee.
"It only takes one person to be shedding virus when completely asymptomatic, and my concern is that this could turn into something like the nursing home pandemic, where it just spreads exponentially," Dr. Fina Barouch, a Boston-area physician and mom of two kids who usually go to camp tells NPR.
The decision of whether or not kids can go to camp is up to parents, but some states (including Georgia and Connecticut) have banned sleepaway camps this year. New York is still debating the issue,
McEntire worries about what will happen to families if they need camp but find it isn't an option. "A lot of parents have choices whether to send their child to camp or not, but many others don't," McEntire told TODAY. "They utilize overnight camp and even more day camp as child care because they have to go to work, and so we feel responsible to design that so they can be as safe as possible, so children when they're with us have fun, be outdoors and allow that parent to go to work."
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