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CDC updates guidance for masks, distancing during summer camps

May 28, 2021

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Children and teens at summer camps do not need to wear masks outdoors unless they are unable to physically distance according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The guidance covers masking and physical distancing in a variety of indoor and outdoor situations. It comes as adolescents as young as 12 years are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, which officials strongly encourage.

At camps where everyone is fully vaccinated, children and adults don’t need to wear masks or physically distance. But for camps with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, the recommendations are more complex. And while the CDC has provided recommendations, campers and staff regardless of vaccination status are still subject to state and local regulations, and camps may set more stringent rules.

Cohorts and layers of protection

At camps where not everyone is fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends using layers of protection, including masks, physical distancing, handwashing, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, limiting shared objects, routine cleaning, screening and testing those with symptoms.

The CDC also recommends assigning campers and staff to cohorts that stay together for the entire session and have limited contact with others.

Face masks

Campers and staff ages 2 years and older who are not fully vaccinated should wear face masks indoors with the exception of people with certain disabilities, according to the CDC. This includes times when they are with their own cohort at day camps. However, overnight campers who sleep in the same cabin can remove their masks when no one outside that cohort is nearby.

Outdoors, campers and staff do not need to wear a mask unless they are in a crowded setting or in sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated, especially in places with high transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Masks should not be worn during swimming or boating.

Physical distancing

The CDC recommends physical distancing among people who are not fully vaccinated while indoors and outdoors including

  • at least 3 feet between all campers within a cohort;
  • at least 6 feet between all campers outside of their cohort,
  • at least 6 feet while eating and drinking without a mask indoors, including among people within the same cohort;
  • at least 6 feet between campers and staff; and
  • at least 6 feet between staff.

Participating in sports

Sports should be played outdoors whenever possible to reduce the possible transmission of the virus. The CDC recommends people who are not fully vaccinated avoid playing close contact sports or sports held indoors. However, those who choose to participate in these activities should wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart. Camps also may consider screening these athletes for COVID-19 before they participate.

People at increased risk of severe illness

People who are at increased risk of severe illness should take extra precautions, and camps should offer modifications such as virtual opportunities.

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