California announces new guidance for overnight summer camps
The guidance allows camps to operate if all participants are fully vaccinated and outlines steps to protect those who are not fully vaccinated.
As California expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to young people between the ages of 12 and 15, the state has released new guidance for overnight summer camps geared toward reopening in June.
The move reflects sweeping guidelines issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which draw a distinction between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.
Camps where all staff and attendees are fully vaccinated may operate without any additional public health recommendations beyond the state’s existing health and safety code, according to the new regulations.
Camps where some staff members and attendees are not fully vaccinated — a likely scenario given that many camps offer sessions for young children — will have to meet a variety of standards for masking, social distancing and testing, according to the guidelines.
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For example, if any camp staff or attendees are not fully vaccinated, masking will be required indoors regardless of physical distancing, and outdoors when six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained at all times.
But vaccinated campers and staff can follow current state guidelines regarding the appropriate use of face coverings, which allows fully vaccinated people to spend time together indoors without masks or distancing, among other key points. Fully vaccinated people can also refrain from wearing face coverings outdoors except when attending crowded outdoor events.
“We’re excited to be able to get these kids back,” said Lindsey Johnson, camper experience coordinator at Kennolyn Camps in Soquel. “It was hard not seeing them last summer.”
Johnson said capacity at Kennolyn will remain limited to about 70%, and that the camp will be requiring overnight staff members to be vaccinated. Campers and staff will also be tested for COVID-19 on arrival, and once again if they are there for two weeks.
“All of the resident camps have been waiting eagerly for [these guidelines] so they can plan accordingly,” said Heather Hibbeler, owner and director of Sierra Sleep-Away Camp in Bass Lake. “We’re diving into them right now.”
Hibbeler said the camp was closed last summer due to COVID-19 and that she couldn’t wait to welcome campers back.
“We’re looking forward to seeing our campers, having fun, smiling, making connections — just getting back to life and enjoying the great outdoors,” she said.
Staff and campers will be tested for COVID-19 prior to arrival and again during the session, Hibbeler added, “and all of our staff are eager and getting vaccinated.”
California in March had announced that “sleep-away camps” were permitted to reopen with modifications in counties in the red, orange or yellow tiers of the state’s color-coded reopening system. Currently, no counties are in the purple, or most restrictive, tier of the system. Santa Cruz County is in line to move into the least-restrictive yellow tier on Tuesday.
The guidelines, which are expected to apply throughout the summer of 2021, also advise camps without fully vaccinated participants to follow CDC recommendations for overnight camps, including having an emergency operations plan in place to protect attendees, staff, visitors and communities from the spread of COVID-19.
Campers and staff should also be screened for COVID-19 symptoms on arrival and should consider periodic retesting at camps that last longer than one week, officials said.
Other state recommendations include daily checks to monitor for symptoms, with isolation strategies in place in case someone gets sick. Camps can also consider requiring unvaccinated participants to quarantine at home for the 10-day period prior to camp arrival, and are advised to assign campers to “stable groups that will remain together for the entire camp session.”
The broad rules should be followed unless stricter guidance is provided by local health authorities, the state said, noting that staff and campers should plan to bring at least a seven-day supply of masks.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.