A new American Camp Association (ACA) study of 486 camps that served 90,000 campers reports that only 30 campers had confirmed COVID-19 cases in 2020. This is a direct result of the summer camp industry’s focus on developing child safety standards from the earliest days of the pandemic. Camp directors were able to offer childcare and essential experiences for kids and families when they needed it most.

“The science demonstrates that camps that have implemented strict, layered mitigation strategies, including masking, cohorting, physical distancing, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, proper handwashing, and respiratory etiquette, have been able to safely operate in person,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of ACA.

The new ACA survey results provide information for campers with evidence that COVID-19 camp cases can be contained and minimized when facilities are prepared with effective mitigation strategies. When camps follow the rigorous scientific approach outlined in the Field Guide for Camps on Implementation of CDC Guidance, camps can operate safely and successfully.

The survey screened 90,000 campers from 486 camps that ran in 2020 and found only 102 COVID-19 cases identified (less than 1 percent of campers and camp staff). Other highlights from the research that offer evidence of camp success include:

  • Out of those 486 camps, only 74 camps experienced at least one COVID case (30 campers and 72 staff).
  • Camps consistently implemented strategies for quarantining, contact tracing, sanitization practices, and cohorting, reporting that they successfully mitigated cases from spreading;
  • The study from summer 2020 suggests camps that reported consistent use of nonpharmaceutical interventions also reported lowest incidence of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“This summer is looking hopeful!” said Gregg Morrow of UltraCamp, an ACA member and industry leader. “Registration has already opened for many camps, and spots are filling up fast. We’re excited for camps to provide kids a space to learn and grow together again this summer.”

As the pandemic continues to evolve and researchers and scientists provide more information, the ACA will update its Field Guide, and the camp community, with the latest research and practices. March 2 brought the release of “Model State Guidelines for Overnight Camps” and, in April, ACA will release additional resources for camps based on research to understand kids summertime activity participation specific to summer 2020 and how this changed from expected participation due to COVID-19.

“Last summer’s mitigation practices highlight the necessary foundation for a successful 2021 camp season. Our new research demonstrates that children can be with their friends and counselors and take a break from technology this summer. In fact, camp provides critical support for children as they recover from the challenging effects of the pandemic in a safe environment away from home,” Rosenberg said.