The coronavirus, which has led to school closures and a run on stores as shoppers frantically stock up on hand sanitizer, toilet paper and other necessities, may impact yet another aspect of American life: camp.
With spring break around the corner, families are making plans. But the outbreak of COVID-19, which has led to nine deaths in the U.S. and sickened tens of thousands worldwide, is leading some to consider postponing vacations. And it could make some parents think twice before enrolling their kids in vacation programs as well.
Outbreaks of illness, from the flu to strep throat, are always possible in a camp setting. But the coronavirus, which has no vaccine and is currently gripping headlines, may be particularly worrying to some camp goers.
The Association of Camp Nursing has posted guidance for camp officials, noting that information about the virus “is a moving target.’’
Among the tips:
Skip the first day if you have symptoms
Besides encouraging camp managers to frequently check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for updates, the group encouraged them to tell families to keep children at home if they’re experiencing a fever, shortness of breath or other symptoms. They should do the same if they’ve been exposed to the virus.
Families should also be made aware of how the program will deal with a child who comes to camp with symptoms, whether they will be “allowed to stay at camp, not allowed to stay, and isolation policies,” the association’s guidance said.
Consider your own screening
When campers and staff members arrive, they should be asked if they have shown any signs of the virus, where they have traveled recently, and if they might have been exposed.
Camp managers might also consider checking the temperatures of camp participants and workers as they arrive. And there should be a protocol for trying to keep the camp illness free, from scrubbing surfaces to making sure there’s plenty of sanitizers as well as soap and water.
Camp workers should monitor their own health
Make sure staff is vigilant about their own health as well as that of others.
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“Have staff evaluate themselves every morning for any influenza-like illness,’’ the guidance says.
Also, make sure the camp’s team understands the importance of hygiene, such as frequently washing their hands and coughing into the crook of their arms.
Know what to do if there’s an outbreak
The association recommends checking its site and others, such as the World Health Association’s to get tips on how to prepare for instances of illness. Camp supervisors should also reach out to local health officials if they have questions.
Past lessons could help with COVID-19
“Flu currently poses more risk to campers (and) staff than COVID-19,” the association’s guidance says. “Classic, communicable disease personal protection behaviors help reduce exposure impacts from COVID-19 just as they do for other illnesses. Make sure people use them.”