As thousands of camps across the country weigh whether to open this summer, the YMCA and the American Camp Association have released best practices to keep children safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
The detailed guidelines include precautions such as having children wear masks when appropriate, engaging in smaller group activities than usual and regularly sanitizing sports equipment — if they decide to operate.
"Some camps will open with shortened sessions and have in-person camps, some camps will have virtual camping opportunities for kids who can't attend in person, some camps are pivoting to other programs, like family camp," said Tom Rosenberg, American Camp Association president and CEO. "There are going to be lots of different choices, but not necessarily looking typical this summer."
Rosenberg spoke about the guidelines, along with Paul McEntire, chief operating officer of YMCA of the USA, exclusively with The "TODAY" Show on Monday morning. Both he and McEntire said camps would be heeding the guidance of their state and local health departments, which in some cases, could mean that they do not open this summer.
"We already know a number of our overnight camps have decided not to, but a lot are still in that decision-making," McEntire said. "We do think most of our day camps will operate."
The guidelines emphasize social distancing whenever possible: staggering meals and arrivals and pick-ups, for example. They also call for regular hand-washing, disinfection measures and the option of screening campers and staff through temperature checks for two weeks before camp starts.
The safety suggestions were drawn up with the help of an environmental health consulting firm and expand on existing guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for preventing the spread of the coronavirus at summer camps.
"Parents can definitely expect to see safety as the first and foremost focus at camp this summer," Rosenberg said. "We know as directors that when a child feels safe, they learn and grow even more effectively.
Millions of children attend camps across the United States each summer. Scott Brody, the owner and director of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen in New Hampshire, said his camps' primary strategy will be keeping kids in smaller groups, in addition to enforcing more hand-washing than usual.
"I think every camp is going to find a way to take care of their campers, because that’s why we do what we do," he said. We are about community and growth and love and support."