New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday says that kids who are vaccinated can go mask-free at camp. The guidance applies to both day camps and sleepaway camps.

Summer camp is an important part of a child’s social-emotional health and now that the vaccine is available to ages 12 and older, it makes sense that the rules will be changing regarding masking and social distancing.

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“Staff and campers who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks at camp, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” reads the guidance. “Although fully vaccinated persons do not need to wear masks, camps can be supportive of staff or campers who choose to continue to wear a mask.”

Physical distancing is also not needed for those who are fully vaccinated. The CDC does say that camps should promote behaviors such as hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette “to reduce the spread of disease and infection in general.”

If all staff and campers are vaccinated, the restrictions are even looser.

“For camps where everyone is fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp  it is safe to  return to full capacity, without masking, and without physical distancing in accordance with CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People; except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.”

The CDC stresses that vaccines are safe and effective.

“Everyone aged 12 years and older is recommended to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to keep from getting and spreading COVID-19,” says the CDC.

Andy Pritikin, owner/director of Liberty Lake Day Camp in Bordentown says that while the CDC often comes out with guidelines, it’s up to the states to interpret them.

“As of now, the NJ guidelines are very much like they were last summer,” says Pritikin. “Kids do not need to wear masks when within their camper groups (vaccinated or unvaccinated) outdoors and the camper groups must stay together. Interestingly, they also decreed that all staff (vaccinated or unvaccinated) must wear masks at all times, indoors and outdoors.”

Pritikin says he’s hopeful that the New Jersey Department of Health will adjust our guidelines similarly in lieu of the new advice from the CDC. “We have a great relationship with the state Department of Health, and last summer New Jersey was one of the only states in which camps were allowed to open with mask-less campers within their groups outdoors. So I’m very optimistic.”

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