Martinsville, IN, May 18, 2020 – The American Camp Association (ACA) and the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) announce the release of Camp Operations Guide – Summer 2020, a groundbreaking educational resource developed to support day and overnight summer camp operations this summer.
ACA and Y-USA engaged Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc. (EH&E), a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in environmental health, to convene an independent expert panel of specialists to create this educational resource. The panel included support from the Association of Camp Nursing and specialists in pediatric medicine, epidemiology, infectious disease management, biological safety, industrial hygiene, organizational design, and other technical specialties.
This resource outlines leading practices for day and overnight camps, state and local health departments, and parents/guardians of campers to assist all parties in making informed summer camp decisions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 20 million children attend camp each summer in the United States for the opportunity to gain important life skills, prevent summer learning loss, take a break from technology, and try new activities in an outdoor environment. Camp additionally provides essential care and supervision for working parents during the summer months.
“Safety has always been the ruling factor for camp operations, but the arrival of COVID-19 required game-changing educational resources that summarize the potential safety steps camps should consider so children can get back some normalcy and experience the many benefits and joys of camp,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and chief executive officer, ACA. “Given the months of sheltering in place and the countless hours children have logged on screens during this time, the social-emotional benefits camp can provide are even more crucial to the nation’s children now. It is the ACA and Y-USA’s hope that this educational resource will be a useful reference for camp directors alongside primary guidance from state and local health departments and the CDC. This summer, more than ever, children need camp.”
ACA and Y-USA emphasize that camps must adapt swiftly to meet the emerging needs of children of the COVID-19 era, and that campers, parents, and camp staff should expect widespread changes, such as daily temperature checks, smaller family-like groups, new dining and bunking strategies to protect physical distancing, and staggered arrivals/departures, among others.
“The safety and wellbeing of the children and adults camps serve each year will always be our top priority. By working with leading camp, health and safety experts to develop these educational resources, we hope that camps will be able to make informed, safe, and responsible decisions about if, when, and how they operate this summer,” said Paul McEntire, chief operating officer, YMCA of the USA. “We know that camp is a transformational experience for building relationship skills, independence, responsibility, appreciation for differences and a sense of belonging. We are concerned about the negative impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on youth mental health and are looking for every way in which we can help camps rebuild social connections, coping skills, and resiliency in children across the country.”
Each individual camp will require robust resources to operate as the best public health partner possible. The field of camp is very diverse. Camps are spread out geographically and program designs vary widely from one camp to another, including session length, activities, camper audience, focus, and proximity to medical providers. All camps operating this summer will be different, but their positive and lasting impact on the lives of children will remain.
“The Association of Camp Nursing is proud to be part of this endeavor,” said Tracey Gaslin, executive director, Association of Camp Nursing. “We feel the release of these practical considerations will provide information that allows camps to effectively partner with campers, families, staff, and other stakeholders regarding a camp experience. Today, more than ever, we realize a need for youth to develop mental and emotional fortitude during this time, and we know camps can be instrumental in this effort.”
Ultimately, state and local boards of health are responsible for setting and governing the operational parameters for day and overnight camps in their jurisdictions. This resource is designed to allow camps and state and local boards of health to work together to determine how each unique camp can meet the critical needs of their community this summer.
Stay tuned: ACA’s mission is to be a leading voice for child development. This coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and will continue to change children in profound ways. That is why ACA is launching several landmark studies this summer to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on children, families, and camps. Study findings will be announced in the fall.