COVID cases are down in NJ and things are looking up for summer camp! New data from the NJ Department of Health shows they are constantly reporting the lowest number of confirmed cases since last July.  Thankfully, this summer, things are looking brighter due to vaccinations.

The CDC recently updated its guidelines to say that at camps where everyone is fully vaccinated it is safe to return to full capacity, without masking and without physical distancing. The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone 12 and older to keep from getting and spreading COVID. The agency also said that while people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks, camp programs should be supportive of campers or staff who choose to wear a mask.

And despite the stresses of the pandemic, many camps successfully navigated the summer of 2020 which is good news for kids who can’t wait to get back to camp. “There are safety questions for camps surrounding COVID-19 this summer but the good news is camps opened and ran successfully last summer even amid COVID,” says Susie Lupert, executive director of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ.

Here are some more tips for keeping your kids safe and giving you peace of mind:

Remember it’s normal for all camps to have some level of risk. “Every summer when our kids go, mine included, there is a possibility of injury and infection,“ says David B. Levine, MD, a pediatrician with Atlantic Medical Group, part of Atlantic Health System. “This summer is no different.”  Levine recommends parents schedule in-person or virtual visits to get a better understanding of the camp and its safety measures. He says he’ll be sending both his kids to day camp this summer.

Is sleepaway or day camp safer? Levine says that while sleepaway camp may be a little riskier in terms of COVID since campers live together in close proximity, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a safe experience. “There were sleepaway camps that were successful last summer and there should be more this summer, as long as they adhere to safety protocols,” he says. “Much of the risk of sleepaway camp has to do with what the kids and staff do before they even get there, rather than the time spent there.”

Ask how long camp directors have been there and about their background. “During a pandemic you want to make sure the camp director has been working in the field for some time and has the knowledge that comes with being in the camp industry full-time,” says Lupert.  

Make sure the camp has an organized way of keeping parents informed. “Communication is key any year, but during COVID, it’s imperative,” says Lupert. “Ask about how the camp communicates with parents and how frequently.” 

Remember standard precautions have not changed. Keep hydrated, use sunblock of at least SPF 30, use insect repellent and wash hands frequently especially after using the bathroom and before and after eating, says Levine.

Reach out to parents for honest reviews. “If the camp was open last year, you can speak with the parent about how the camp handled COVID and how their experience was for their child,” says Lupert. 

At the end of the day it’s important to use common sense. Don’t send your kids to camp if they aren’t feeling well, or if there’s a risk that they may have COVID from a family member and should be quarantining, since this puts the entire camp group at risk. “If the camp community is careful and committed, everyone wins,” says Levine.