Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for summer camps, suggesting masks for all campers and staff, as well as social distancing and vaccinations for all adult staff members.
But according to one nonprofit that operates outdoor adventure camps in Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, the restrictions don’t seem to be affecting business.
“We actually are seeing a boom,” said Julie Clendenin, a director at Calleva. “Our camps filled up within a couple of months of opening up registration, and we have a gigantic waiting list.”
Clendenin said the camp will operate at a lower capacity because it needs to socially distance campers aboard buses. Social distancing is one of the many restrictions the CDC guidance recommends. It also recommends daily health and temperature checks for any day campers, cleaning any common vehicles and limiting any shared equipment.
“It definitely requires a lot more from us on the staffing side because we are using additional supplies, and it is definitely a cost factor for us,” said Clendenin.
They also trained staff extensively, she said, to perform health checks and spot symptoms among kids.
All COVID protocols were developed for Calleva by partnering with various state and local health departments where they operate. They also worked with the American Camp Association to develop protocols that follow CDC guidelines.
And while most of their camps are for day campers looking for adventure, they offer overnight options for teens through “High Adventures,” a program in which they go camping for an entire week. The CDC recommends that campers who stay overnight should do so in groups that live together and not mix with any other campers, especially without wearing masks.
“They will each have their own tents. They’ll be in a small group for the whole week. They won’t be interacting with other groups throughout the week,” said Clendenin. “It is a risk-based model, and we limit the chance of outbreak. But in the event that we do have an outbreak this year, it just simplifies the contact tracing.”
On Tuesday, the CDC released new guidance saying vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask outdoors. But no vaccine has been approved for use in children under 16 years old, and it is unclear if the CDC will update guidelines for masks at outdoor camps.
Last year, Calleva operated several small summer camps without any spread of the virus, according to Clendenin, and staff noticed that the restrictions put in place did not seem to affect the kids’ enjoyment.
“Kids are very adaptable. We remind them of restrictions, and they are amazing, because they definitely adapt and are able to have fun despite the limitations.”
Calleva operates camps year-round. Its summer camps — for kids 5 to 16 — offer activities like mountain biking, white water rafting and climbing.
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