Health

Summer Camps Have Become a New Hotbed for COVID-19 Spread

COVID-19 outbreaks at day camps and sleepaway camps are throwing yet another wrench in summer plans across the U.S.
July 16, 2020, 6:28pm
kid jumping into lake summer vacation life vest

Unfortunately for camp counselors, this summer there’s more to deal with than inter-cabin drama (“Madyson took my tie-dye and she says it’s hers but I know it’s mine because in the corner I dripped the red on top of the blue to make purple and she did blue over red, so—”). Summer camps across the country have been forced to close after staffers and campers alike tested positive for COVID-19—even at facilities that say they are taking extra safety precautions.

According to a poll from CampMinder released on June 9, 62 percent of summer camps opted to remain closed this year. For the ones that decided to take extra precautions and soldier on, the rollout has been bleak.

Some camps have thrown in the towel at the first sign of a COVID-19 outbreak. In St. Cloud, Florida, a city day camp shuttered operations this week after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19. In Plano, Texas, a day camp closed for the summer on Tuesday after four people—two staffers and two campers—tested positive for COVID-19.

Other camps have opted to remain… let’s say... “optimistic.” In Manasquan, New Jersey, a day camp run by the city’s beach and recreation department “paused” operations after “several” workers (they have not made the exact number public) tested positive for COVID-19, with more test results from campers and staffers still pending. Two summer day camps in Sarasota County, Florida, closed for two weeks after a camper tested positive at one, while a staffer exhibited symptoms at another. Both are slated to reopen in late July. Three employees, including two counselors, tested positive for COVID-19 while working at a YMCA overnight camp in O’Fallon, Illinois; the camp plans to resume operations July 27.

Then there are the bigger outbreaks that cast serious doubt on the idea that camps should be open at all this year. Eighty-two cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a single sleepaway camp in Lampe, Missouri, which shut down in early July after 41 people tested positive. According to NPR, campers and staffers who later tested positive headed home to “at least 10 states and to multiple counties in Missouri.” In Georgia, 85 confirmed cases in counselors and campers emerged from two separate YMCA overnight camps, since shut down; initial reports misstated the number of cases to somewhere around 30.

The Washington Post pointed out that the Missouri camp, Kanakuk K-2, took “extraordinary” precautions when it came to pandemic safety, even installing a new air filtration system in every cabin as part of its 31-point plan. According to the Post, “its precautions included documented health screenings; daily temperature checks; highly qualified doctors and nurses; hand sanitizer in all buildings; limited access to camp grounds for outsiders; elaborate quarantine protocols; rigorous cleaning; and stringent limits on touching.” Evidently, all of these precautions were not enough to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Kids and parents alike desperately need the kind of benefits that summer camp can provide, especially as the prospect of safely reopening schools looks more and more remote. Working parents need relief from providing constant childcare while juggling a job. Kids need to go outside, find an “arrowhead” in a river, and learn how to tie a square knot! But, because the government has failed to prioritize children and a federal and state level, summer camp has become another thing we can count out thanks to COVID-19.

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