Summer camp strategies to prevent the spread of COVID led to ‘near zero’ transmissions: CDC

Implementing several strategies prevented near zero transmission of COVID-19 among 7,173 campers and staff who attended nine overnight camps in the United States this summer, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC).

During this summer, nine affiliate camps worked with the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Camp Association, and state and local departments to design protocols specific to their individual site.


Each camp recommended vaccinations for those who were eligible, but 30% of participants were not eligible because they were under 12, according to the study.

All nine camps required staff members and campers to mask themselves and physically move away from anyone outside of their immediate family for nearly two weeks prior to their arrival. Participants were strongly advised to mask themselves and practice physical distancing when heading to camp, while campers were required to submit at least one negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arriving at camp, according to the ‘study.

During their first 12 days of camp, unvaccinated campers were repeatedly screened to rule out COVID-19, the researchers noted.

FILE – This file photo from Thursday, June 4, 2020 shows a row of cabins at a summer camp in Fayette, Maine. On Friday, May 28, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines saying summer camp children can avoid wearing masks outdoors, with a few exceptions. Children who are not fully immunized should always wear masks outdoors when in crowds or in sustained close contact with others – and when they are indoors, and children who are fully immunized do not. You don’t need to wear masks indoors or out, according to the CDC. (AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty, File)


Staff and campers were organized into pods: each pod was the same cabin where residents interacted with their other members without masking or physically moving away, but the camps eventually merged into larger pods, where a pod evolved into several cabins.

Camps deliberately maximized outdoor activities to limit indoor transmission, staggered meal times, and campers divided to eat inside or outside. Nursing care, sick calls and medication administration were also phased in.

The researchers found that 21 people had tested positive on more than 38,000 screening tests, but 15 had a false positive result. Three additional symptomatic cases were identified, totaling nine positive cases at the nine sites without any secondary transmission.


This study has two important limitations: Negative test results that were symptomatic were not always documented due to staffing issues in the infirmary. The second limitation was incomplete vaccination data because one camp did not collect vacation status among campers, which led to an underestimation of the overall vaccination rate.

The report’s lead scientist, Dr. Sarah Lee, team leader in the Healthy Schools Branch, Population Health Division at CDC, recently wrote to Fox News: “The results of this study confirm that Prevention at several levels (for example, drug testing, masking, physical distancing, and activity modification) help reduce the risk of the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in youth summer camps. Additionally, with high vaccination rates among staff and eligible campers, these camps were well prepared to prevent COVID-19. “

Research has noted that schools and other similar programs related to youth may apply similar strategies to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

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