- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2020

Face masks and hand sanitizer have replaced backpacks and sleeping bags as must-have items at the few summer camps that have opened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking their cues from public health officials, camps are employing a number of tactics to keep campers safe such as testing them for fevers, holding abbreviated sessions, limiting transportation to and from facilities and even conducting some activities online.

According to the American Camp Association, there are more than 14,000 day and resident camps in the U.S. CampMinder, a firm that creates management software for camps, found that 62% of the 885 camps it surveyed are remaining closed for the summer.

Camp Winnebago in Fayette, Maine, is one of just 20 camps in the state to open this year. The other 90 camps in Maine are closed.

“We believe that we can run a program safely and with the health of the campers at the top of our minds. We’re not doing this cavalierly. We’re taking this extremely seriously,” camp owner Andy Lilienthal told the Associated Press.

At Camp Winnebago, campers were tested for the coronavirus before and after arrival, face masks are required in larger groups, and hand sanitizer is required when entering or exiting a cabin and before and after group activities.

Meanwhile, the YMCA of Metro Chicago is offering “Camp Redefined,” an online experience that includes welcome circles, physical activity and group learning.

“For years the Y has shaped what summer camp looks like and has always developed our programming with safety, convenience and cost in mind to service our families as best we can,” the YMCA’s website says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released its own guidelines for reopening camps, acknowledging that some children may fear being near others after having been at home for so long and that children’s psychosocial development, self-esteem and leadership qualities can benefit from camp experience.

“During the summer, it is important that children begin to reestablish connections with their friends, peers and non-parental adults in an environment that supports their development while also consistently practicing the recommended principles to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the guide states.

Tom Rosenberg of the American Camp Association said children aren’t the only ones who will miss out on opportunities as many camps remain closed this summer. Camps are estimated to lose $16 billion in revenue, with more than $4.4 billion in lost wages and over 900,000 lost jobs this summer, he told the AP.

Some camps, however, are shutting their doors almost as soon as they opened.

Media outlets have reported that Camp High Harbour in Georgia closed after counselors and campers tested positive for the coronavirus. Other camps across the country are facing a similar fate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have outlined sanitization and social distancing guidelines, and encouraged campers to be “Clean Camp Champs” this summer.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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