summer camp reopening

Should Summer Camps Reopen in 2020?

By Eileen Dempsey

summer camp reopening

Summer camp reopening and coronavirus are a hot topic among parents, camp counselors, and kids. Experts in pediatric development argue that camps help kids develop critical developmental skills. Parents look forward to extra time to focus on work and their own health and give their kids some much-needed structure and social time.

On the other hand, some experts warn against large gatherings of any kind, even though some suggest that children without preexisting conditions may be less affected by the coronavirus.

So, what does a summer camp reopening look like? And what are the pros and cons of sending your kids (or reopening your business) during the pandemic? As some summer camps reopen across the country, here’s what advocates on both sides of the reopening debate are saying.

The following is not medical advice or reflects the opinions of our company. Please see CDC and state guidelines for advice on summer camp coronavirus prevention measures and speak with your doctor.

The Argument for Reopening Summer Camps in 2020

Some New Jersey summer camps are open for business. In Virginia and Maryland, some parts of the state are allowing for in-person programs whereas other parts only allow for remote activities. New Hampshire has reopened camps as of June 2020. Washington state, also great for outdoor summer activities, has also opened some programs.

Though state and county regulations differ, the arguments for reopening summer camps during coronavirus is largely the same: kids, parents, and economies may benefit — with the right health and safety measures.

summer camp coronavirus

What Reopen Summer Camps May Look Like During Coronavirus

Reopening summer camp does not mean a return to normalcy. For starters, there may be fewer campers per group or counselors. Crowded cafeterias may be replaced with socially distanced or outdoor meals. This may mean accommodating fewer kids than ever.

The activities may also look a little different. Games will now involve maintaining a social distance, and routine hand washing and hand sanitizing will be crucial to a safe summer camp reopening during coronavirus.

In normal times, summer camps can be a life-changing way for kids to make friends, develop skills, and experience nature. Though reopening during a pandemic poses an unprecedented set of challenges, its rewards may be even greater for the whole family.

Social Interactions Are Critical for Child Development

Outdoor activities with others aren’t just fun; they’re important for cognitive development, happiness, language skills, and physical health in the longterm.

  • A clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that playing with other children and parents is critical for a child’s ability to manage stress, learn focus, and develop other critical cognitive skills.
  • Research has uncovered that children who have more interaction with others, though a daycare, for instance, may have an advantage when it comes to language development.
  • Another study found that children who engage in outdoor play may have lower BMIs (Body Mass Index), meaning that it may serve as a way to reduce pediatric obesity.
  • Socializing itself may have a strong impact on physical health throughout a person’s life, starting in adulthood, another study found.

Reopening Summer Camps Means More Structure

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, children and parents have had to tackle remote learning without much, if any, preparation. Not only is this stressful for both parents and kids, but research shows that the majority of children fell behind curriculum during spring school closures.

A lack of physical presence in school contributes to learning losses and social isolation, according to research cited by the American Academy for Pediatrics.

Though reopening summer camps may not provide strict academic focus, they offer structure and the opportunity to socialize.

Having Time at Home Gives Parents the Opportunity to Work and Relax

Any parent knows that homeschooling during COVID-19 was a challenge for which children, parents, and educators were not prepared. Many parents struggled to balance remote work, financial hardship, or both with kids' online learning as jobs shifted online and unemployment numbers grew.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, almost half of parents with children under 18 cited high levels of stress. Most of the responders indicated that homeschooling was a significant source of stress. Stress rates related to healthcare or employment challenges and fear of the virus itself were higher in communities of color.

Many parents are eager for summer camp reopening because it allows them more time for remote work for their job and to look for employment. For those who are lucky to be employed, the struggle to parent and work often leads to long hours or one parent working night if they cannot work remotely. Finding a job may be especially difficult for those who are unemployed without daycares and summer camps open.

camp reopening 2020

Children May Be Less Likely to Develop Serious COVID-19 Complications

Children are not immune to coronavirus. However, some research suggests that children without preexisting conditions may be less likely to develop life-threatening complications from COVID-19. Here are a few statistics from one data source on pediatric coronavirus cases at the time of writing:

  • Children accounted for approximately 190,000 of the United States’ approximately 3 million COVID-19 cases
  • Out of 190,000 cases, 670 have been admitted to pediatric intensive care units
  • 64 children have died from the virus as of July 4, 2020.
  • In New York City, 13 children have died from COVID-19, out of over 18,500 deaths. The majority are attributed to children with preexisting conditions.
  • Another study found that 83% of the children admitted to intensive care units suffered from preexisting conditions.

The above is not medical advice. It is meant for educational purposes to illustrate the spread of the novel coronavirus in pediatric cases. If you are concerned about your or your children’s health, please speak with your physician.

Is Reopening Summer Camps During Coronavirus Safe?

The big question on everyone’s mind is whether there is a safe way to reopen summer camps in 2020 during the pandemic. The decision concerning what is safe to reopen has largely been left up to states and even individual counties. The CDC also provides general information on business reopenings, though emphasizes that they offer suggestions and that laws are determined on a state-by-state basis.

The question of whether it is safe to reopen summer camps is similar to questions surrounding reopening in general. Should states reopen restaurants, nail salons, barbershops, and gyms? And what protocol should businesses use to keep their employees and customers safe?

None of these activities is safe during a pandemic — especially for children and adults with preexisting conditions such as obesity, diabetes, respiratory problems, and other ailments. For many, however, the risks of leaving children at home and burden on parents responsible for 24/7 care — and proper health and cleaning protocol — outweigh the potential dangers of reopening summer camps in 2020.

How to Reopen Summer Camps in 2020

Keep in mind that every state — and even individual counties — may have its own coronavirus precautions for reopening summer camps this year. For example, children’s programs may occur at a specific face in a state’s reopening program. For example, some states may mandate temperature checks, ratio of children per adult supervisor, and health screening questions with parents or guardians.

In addition to staying up to date with local legislation, here’s what some experts are suggesting for reopening camps this summer.

  1. Outdoor activities are significantly safer than indoor ones, and indoor rooms must be heavily ventilated or have the windows open. 
  2. A plan for social distancing and face covering, such as face shields, to be enforced by staff and taught to summer camp attendees.
  3. Limit the numbers of campers that interact with each other or use the same space. This may mean operating the camp at a percentage of normal capacity and keeping groups small.
  4. Overnight camps may be isolated from outsiders to prevent infection. They should also communicate with parents if children will be coming from various locations across the country.
  5. Employees should have cleaning and hand washing protocols to meet state-specific health and safety requirements. This means procedures on how to disinfect commonly touched items, transportation, and other supplies.
  6. A summer camp must have procedures for identifying sick children (temperature checks, health updates with parents, training on how to look for symptoms), and a procedure to follow if a staff member or child becomes ill.
  7. Limit any external activities outside of the camp.

Some suggest that reopening summer camps may be riskier for the employees may have a higher chance of serious infection than the children. Younger councilors may be more resistant to the virus.