Summer camps at which all participants are fully vaccinated may operate as normal, without requiring masks or imposing other social-distancing measures, the CDC said on Friday.
Parents: Slow the spread of #COVID19 at camp. Get eligible kids fully vaccinated before camp. Kids not fully vaccinated should #WearAMask indoors. Outdoors, in areas w/ high #'s of cases, mask in crowded spaces or when in sustained close contact. More: https://t.co/BSgsPiqW0q. pic.twitter.com/ZdF1Ux1i4j
— CDC (@CDCgov) May 28, 2021
However, given that most kids won’t be fully vaccinated by summertime, it’s likely many camps will take the safer and less complicated route: ordering all participants to wear a mask. The alternative would be to check the inoculation status of each child and move the unvaccinated into a separate group.
After previous guidance that was criticized for being too strict – essentially ordering that all children and adults wear a mask at all times, even if they’d been vaccinated – the new directive was hailed as an improvement.
“About damn time,” Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said on Twitter.
Now free our kids from the lunacy of running track with masks and other nonsense.
About damn time. Now free our kids from the lunacy of running track with masks and other nonsense.
CDC eases summer camp guidance, saying children do not always need masks https://t.co/KExcqMiNDs
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 28, 2021
Until earlier this month, none of the vaccines authorized for use in the US was approved for children aged under 16. However, the CDC gave its approval on May 12 for Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 inoculation to be given to children as young as 12. Since then, about 2.5 million 12- to 15-year-olds have received at least their first dose. Children under 12 aren’t expected to start receiving their Covid-19 vaccines until the latter part of 2021 or early 2022.
The US summer camp industry is expected to start heading back to normal this year, after the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out about $16 billion in revenue in 2020, according to an American Camp Association estimate. Up to 80% of overnight camps were closed last year, keeping millions of children at home.
While the CDC still advises that summer camps require indoor masking for unvaccinated children and staff, it has relaxed its guidance on outdoor activities, saying that “In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors.” Nonetheless, it maintained that unvaccinated campers should still wear masks in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve “sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.”
The agency also urged camp operators to be “supportive” of vaccinated staffers and children who choose to continue wearing a mask. It advised that, in cases where it’s difficult to determine who’s been vaccinated, camps may choose to mandate universal face coverings, especially in indoor settings where the transmission risk is highest.