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The American Camp Association, Y-USA, & CDC Released Guidelines for Summer Camps Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The American Camp Association, Y-USA, & CDC Released Guidelines for Summer Camps Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

These guidelines are being reviewed by camps, families, and state and local governments.


Each summer, thousands of New York children go to day and overnight camp. But with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, many sleepaway camps already announced they’ll be closed this summer, while day camps were waiting for recommendations from the Governor's office. In his briefing on June 2, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that day camps can open across New York state starting on June 29, but they're "still reviewing the situation with sleepaway camps.”

There is no doubt that children need camp now more than ever after being out of the school setting for so long. Summer camp provides children with an outdoor learning environment, a break from screens, and the opportunity to socialize with friends face to face. Without camp, children will be out of a structured environment for nearly six months before school potentially starts up again in the fall and many working parents will be left without child care during the summer months.  

Over the past few weeks, as states have been planning the reopening of the economy, summer camp owners and directors have been awaiting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Camp Association, and state and local governments about best practices for operating camp safely this summer. While summer camps in New York are still waiting on guidelines from the New York Department of Health, the ACA, CDC, and YMCA of the USA released the following guidelines mid-May. They are being reviewed by camps, families, and state and local governments.

Camp Safety Guidelines from The American Camp Association and YMCA of the USA

On May 18, the American Camp Association and YMCA of the USA released educational resources to help camps and state officials make informed decisions about camp this summer. The ACA and Y-USA engaged Environmental Health & Engineering Inc., a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in environmental health, to convene an independent expert panel of specialists to create this educational resource. The panel included support from the Association of Camp Nursing and specialists in pediatric medicine, epidemiology, infectious disease management, biological safety, industrial hygiene, organizational design, and other technical specialties. Recommendations from the ACA’s summer camp 2020 resources include things such as: 



  • Prescreening of campers and staff before camp
  • Ongoing screening throughout summer
  • Increased hand washing and sanitizing
  • Fewer children in bunks at overnight camps
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces daily throughout facilities
  • Holding activities outside as often as possible
  • Organizing campers into small group “households” with limited mixing of groups

RELATED: Find a camp in your area

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Summer Camp Safety Guidelines

The CDC also released guidelines this week on how camps can operate during the coronavirus pandemic with some similar recommendations as the resources released by ACA and Y-USA.  Camps should:

  • Educate campers, staff, and their families on when they should stay home from camp
  • Teach and reinforce handwashing with soap and water
  • Keep small groups of campers together all day (cohorting)
  • Have campers bring their own lunch and sit in separate areas as opposed to a dining hall
  • Stagger arrival and dismissal times by cohort
  • Avoid field trips and large camp group gatherings
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and equipment

RELATED: What You Need to Know About Swimming in Backyard Pools this Summer

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Author: Jess Michaels is the director of communications for the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey. She believes every child should have a summer camp experience. See More

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