Summer officially began on June 20—meaning that summer camp season is officially upon us. Of course, nothing is quite the same this year with COVID-19, as the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to spread around the US. Thousands of camps have been closed, and the ones that remain open will look different.

Parents should prepare for those changes to support their child’s new experience and to decrease their risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 at camp. Most camps are guided by recommendations from their local health departments, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and the American Camp Association and the YMCA of the USA. A few questions can help parents prepare to send their child to camp safely.

Many camps have altered their drop-off and pick-up protocols. Limited contact between parents and staff and camp spaces is recommended. Parents will typically be asked to wear masks while dropping and picking up their child. The staff who is receiving your child will likely also be required to wear their masks during this time. The CDC recommends that caregivers at high risk for COVID-19 avoid the task of transporting children to and from camp whenever possible.

Requirements for mask-wearing by children will vary by location, but if your camp is following CDC guidelines, children over the age of 2 will wear masks during these transition times as well. Once in the camp setting, mask requirements will vary depending on the activity, age of the child and the ability to social distance.

Caregivers will want to inquire about camp’s food policies. ACA guidelines suggest boxed lunches are preferred over buffets as well as disposable cups. Campers can also benefit from having their own water-bottles so as not to share. Camps may have rules about food that are different than in year’s past such as no shared snacks or no birthday cupcakes.

Activities may also look different. In most cases, group sizes will be smaller and interactions between groups limited. Staff should be assigned to one group rather than rotating in between all groups in a facility whenever possible. Caregivers might want to inquire about the ratio of campers to staff and what would happen if a counselor was ill and out of work. Similarly, return to camp policies may have changed. It is important to inquire how long your child will be excluded from camp due to illness and what documentation you might need upon return.

With a bit of preparation, the benefits of camp can outweigh the hassles created by SARS-CoV-2. While the risk of illness is never eliminated completely, camps are working hard to decrease risk to their staff and campers. When in doubt, your child’s pediatrician can help you decide if camp would be appropriate for your child at this time.


  • Summer camps are slowly reopening.
  • The camping experience will be different this year.
  • Ask your camp about its safety guidelines to protect campers from coronavirus.
  • Prepare to follow guideline.


  1. American Camp Association. Camp Operations Guide 2020.
  2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Suggestions for Summer Camp.


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