Children’s summer programs will use several strategies to reduce the risk of COVID-19

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RUWPIXEL / SHUTTERSTOCK

What will the summer children’s programs look like this year?

With the rise in vaccinations but with COVID-19 still a danger, organizers of summer programs across the country are grappling with the issue. Compared to last summer, “we are in a very different situation,” said Hayley Herzing, senior director of memberships at the National Association of Recreation and Parks in an email. Vaccines and tests are available, but many safety precautions are still needed.

Members of the association, which run programs for young people in parks and recreation services in cities across the country, have asked for advice, she said. They are also concerned about staff burnout in response to additional demands caused by the pandemic. But there is a lot of research available to help program managers assess and reduce risks., said John Carr, director Center for Camp Security and Emergency Preparedness, in an online presentation sponsored by the Association of American Camps.

The Camp Association, based on the recommendations of the CDC, says masks should always be worn indoors and activities should be organized outdoors as much as possible. Corn new CDC recommendations reduce focus on ‘excessive’ cleaning and disinfection of surfaces. Limiting the cleaning of indoor spaces to once a day may be sufficient when no one suspected of having COVID-19 has been present.

Another positive change from last summer is that protective gear is widely available and many children are already accustomed to wearing masks and social distancing.

The emerging strategy research on the transmission of COVID-19 in the camps involves several levels of preventive measures, including: daily checks to detect symptoms of COVID; social distancing and wearing a mask; and the separation of children into cohorts of small groups.

“Daily practices will include temperature checks, drive-thru drop-offs and pick-ups, and staggered camp hours,” Herzing said in his email. Frequent hand washing and disinfection will continue, she said.

Some parks and recreation programs will use electronic morning health surveys to screen campers and hang tags on cars to identify parents during drop-off and pick-up. Meal times will need to be carefully planned, Herzing said. A member of the association is partnering with local schools to borrow plastic table partitions so children can remove their masks to eat.

“The focus will be on the children’s cohort… to eliminate cross-contamination,” Herzing said. Separate “silos” within the camp will keep the disease contained and personnel working in the silos should also be minimized, Carr said. Cohorts can be kept identifiable by different colored T-shirts or by staying in separate spaces.

Even the site manager or senior administrator should not interact between groups, a lesson learned in nursing homes last year, he said. “We don’t want just one individual [illness] to take the whole structure apart, ”Carr said.

According to rResearch evaluating four camps for sleeping in Maine last summer, combining several key practices preventing the transmission of COVID in these overnight camps, said Laura Blaisdell, pediatrician, consultant and medical director of camp in Maine, in a presentation hosted by the National Association for Summer Learning.

The practices were: screening on arrival, quarantine in small groups for two weeks, and testing on the fifth or sixth day after arrival. Blaisdell said day camps considering testing for COVID-19 may look at the testing protocols used by some schools. She doesn’t expect vaccines to be available for children this summer. Vaccination will be encouraged for staff at parks and recreation agencies, but not mandatory, Herzing said.






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