The CDC has been slammed for releasing ‘cruel’ rules for summer camps that instruct campers to wear masks indoors and outdoors and remain at least three feet apart.
Last month, the CDC shared guidance on how summer camps should operate. That guidance includes mask-wearing indoors and outdoors for campers and staffers whether vaccinated or not. Vaccinations, for now, are limited to adults, not kids.
‘All people in camp facilities should wear masks at all times with exceptions for certain people, or for certain settings or activities, such as while eating and drinking or swimming,’ the CDC said.
According to the CDC, campers should wear their masks for sports and athletic activities that are done outdoors when possible. Campers should also avoid playing close-contact or indoor sports.
The guidance comes as summer camps that have been devastated by the pandemic prepare to welcome new campers in the coming months. About 60 summer camps had to close their doors due to the impact of the pandemic over the last year.
Last month, the CDC shared guidance on how summer camps should operate. That guidance includes mask-wearing indoors and outdoors for campers (file image) and staffers whether vaccinated or not. Vaccinations, for now, are limited to adults, not kids
Experts have blasted this guidance as ‘draconian’ with one infectious disease scientist saying: ‘Requiring kids to continuously wear masks at camps, even while outside playing in the heat, when it provides little additional protection is unfair and cruel to our children (file image)’
The agency also noted that campers should maintain a distance of three feet between all campers within a cohort, at least six feet between all campers outside of their cohort and at least six feet while eating and drinking, including among people within the same cohort.
Experts have blasted this guidance as ‘draconian’ with one infectious disease scientist telling the New York Magazine: ‘With staff and parents vaccinated, there is no reason to continue incredibly strict mitigation efforts or put severe limitations on activities.
‘Requiring kids to continuously wear masks at camps, even while outside playing in the heat, when it provides little additional protection is unfair and cruel to our children.
Epidemiologist Dimitri Christakis told the publication that the CDC’s guidance is ‘unfairly draconian’. He added: ‘We should let kids be close and play, he said, adding that ‘keeping children masked for activities like baseball and tennis is ridiculous’.
Most camp directors sat out last summer as the virus raged across the country, either because of state restrictions that barred them from opening or because of concerns about keeping kids healthy.
But with cases declining and more people vaccinated each day, many are feeling more confident about reopening this season.
The pandemic caused the closure of at least 60 camps last year. The YMCA of Greater New York recently announced that they would be selling three locations, including their Greenkill camp (pictured) after facing a $100million budget shortfall in 2020
Another YMCA camp that will be sold is the Talcott camp (bunk beds pictured)
CDC Guidance for Summer Camps
Experts have mainly taken issue with the three areas of guidance from the CDC:
- Develop mask policies for all campers and staff that set the expectation that people will use masks throughout camp
- Teach and reinforce consistent and correct use of masks
- All people in camp facilities should wear masks at all times with exceptions for certain people, or for certain settings or activities, such as while eating and drinking or swimming
- 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, including among people within the same cohort
- At least 6 feet between campers and staff
- At least 6 feet between staff
Limit Shared Objects:
- Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean
- Keep each camper’s belongings separated from others’ and in individual, labeled containers, cubbies, or areas.
- Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials
- Limit sharing of electronic devices, toys, books, and other games or learning aids
The CDC also recommends consistent handwashing, screening and symptom monitoring, and disinfecting, among others.
Parents are currently scrambling to get their kids signed up before slots are filled in many states like Maine, where at least 100 overnight camps will be open. But some states have yet to release their operating guidelines.
Several states like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey that banned overnight camps last summer have changed their tune.
Across the country, at least 45 states are allowing overnight camps to open, compared to 39 states last summer, according to the American Camp Association.
‘Camps are really gearing up to operate as fully as possible. They know that campers and staff need this experience,’ said Tom Rosenberg, from the ACA.
Most of the overnight camps that did remain open last summer mostly operated successfully, creating their own ‘bubbles’ and emphasizing safety by grouping kids in cohorts, mandating masks and social distancing indoors, and imposing lots of hand washing. Many required kids to quarantine or to be tested before arrival.
But there were a few notable outbreaks. More than 250 people were infected at a camp in Georgia, and more than 80 people were infected at a camp in Missouri, for example.
The situation is much improved from last summer, which was a devastating financial loss for the camping industry with more than 80 per cent of overnight camps closed for the season.
Overnight camps were estimated to lose $16billion in revenue with more than $4.4billion in lost wages and more than 900,000 lost jobs, Rosenberg said.
Most of the roughly 9,000 overnight camps weathered the storm thanks to federal aid including Paycheck Protection Program loans. But there are about 60 fewer camps than before the pandemic, the ACA said.
Of those, the YMCA of Greater New York said it is selling three summer camps that have been around for more than 100 years due to the impact of the pandemic.
The three camps are Talcott, McAlister and Greenkill, which cover more than 1,000 wooded acres in Huguenot, New York, according to the New York Times.
Ronnie Tucker, a YMCA spokesperson, told the newspaper that the organization has laid off nearly 2,000 employees and faced a $100million budget shortfall last year.
Tucker said the decision to close the camps has been ‘a very painful and very, very difficult decision for our organization’.
In a bid to save the camps, community members started a petition that is requesting 15,000 signatures.
‘Camp promotes a diverse culture of acceptance and inclusion for all, including many who would never have the had the opportunity to experience camp due to inability to pay and regardless of socio-economic background,’ the petition reads.
Despite all the worries last year, many parents served as pioneers in electing to continue the camp tradition.
This summer, COVID-19 tests are more readily available, a bonus for camp directors, even as concerns grow about emerging strains of the virus.
Vaccinations are also available to those who are eligible and the CDC strongly encourages summer camp staff to be vaccinated.
‘Fully vaccinated people should continue to take prevention steps, including wearing masks when working or volunteering in youth settings,’ the CDC guidance says.
The CDC also said that while vaccines are not yet approved for use in children of all ages, there are vaccine trials currently underway.