Summer Camp 2020?
By Tiffany Donaldson, Esq.
April 11, 2020.
Packing that bag. Getting on the bus. Heading off to a summer full of possibility. As the summer draws near, camps and campers alike are asking the same question: Will camps be open?
Currently, most Americans are under Executive Order to stay home. “Non-essential” businesses are shuttered. But as infection numbers start to drop and the economy moves toward a breaking point, there are clear signs that the intense restrictions will be at least slightly lifted this summer – leaving the possibility for some version of summer camp to survive.
Americans will likely be able to interact this summer, in small groups, while keeping safe distances. If this is the case, Summer Camps will likely be legally allowed to open, under restrictive conditions.
The congregation of children is especially dangerous in this pandemic. Children, widely unaffected by the virus, can contract the virus and act as carriers. Feeling healthy and unfazed, children can easily spread the virus amongst themselves through regular child play. No harm, no foul, you might say – that is until the children bring the virus home to mom and dad, and grandma, and granddad (and auntie and uncle), with potentially devastating consequences.
So, what can camps do to be able to safely and legally operate during the Summer of a global pandemic? Here are a few suggestions:
#1. Have a Formal Cleaning Plan. Camps need to thoroughly and frequently clean to prevent the spread of disease. Camps should design an in-depth, comprehensive cleaning plan and daily cleaning schedule for all items and areas used by the Camp and Campers. Camps can post this plan and share this plan with parents to allay fears.
#2. Tents instead of cabins. Bunking in a cabin full of other children in close quarters is part of the over-night summer camp experience. But, this year, a cabin full of children will likely be a violation of social distancing rules. Camps can plan to have children bring a tent and sleeping bags. Camps should require setting up personal space for sleeping that complies with social distancing rules.
#3. Make Masks Fun. Masks will be all the rage (and likely required) this summer. Encouraging children to get used to and enjoy wearing masks will be an important part of summer camp. Camps can get the children involved by having them make and decorate or design their own masks at the beginning of the camp. Camps can make games where children lose points for not wearing masks when required, or gain points for remembering to wear their masks.
#4. Eating in Shifts. Camps should plan to space out meal times, to allow for children to be less crowded together. Instead of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, camps can have rolling shifts of multiple breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. Sharing with parents how the camp will handle meal time will also likely be a selling point.
#5. Appropriate Activities. Activities at camp will need to be adjusted this year to prevent crowding of children together and sharing/touching of items. For example: Instead of a group rowing a row boat, one child can take a turn in a boat at a time. Instead of community swim in a pool, children can take turns swimming laps one at a time.
#6. More Staff. Dividing up children into smaller groups for more socially distanced activities will put a strain on the staff. Therefore, camps should consider hiring more staff to accommodate these new demands. Camps might find they need to raise rates to afford the new staff.
#7. Isolation. Camps should prepare beds for isolation of campers with illness. Having an illness does not mean a camper has Coronavirus. An illness could just as easily be caused by poison ivy, allergic reaction, sinuses, sea sickness, sun burn, common cold, or heat exhaustion. However, precautions need to be taken this year. Therefore, camps should have appropriate areas prepared for quarantining ill children, until children can either show signs of recovery or be sent home.
If your Camp presents a well thought out plan for operating in a pandemic, it has a much more likely chance of operating this year. Now is the time to plan. Get creative! Make camp fun and educational for children this year, while working to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Make sure you read the Legal Considerations for running a camp in the Summer 2020.
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