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CDC’s Guidance for Operating Youth and Summer Camps during COVID-19

By Brenda Jacinto posted 05-14-2021 01:33 PM


Summary of Recent Changes

  • Updated background for what is known about COVID-19 and transmission among children and in summer camp settings
  • Added vaccination information
  • Updated guidance on physical distancing
  • Updated guidance on camp activities, including sports and athletic activities
  • Updated considerations for screening testing and contact tracing
  • Updated guidance on cleaning and disinfection
  • Removed guidance on physical barriers
  • Updated guidance on developing emergency operations plans
  • Updated guidance on ventilation and water systems
  • Updated guidance for communal spaces, food service, playgrounds and play space
  • Updated guidance for overnight camps

Key Points

  1. This guidance is intended for all types of youth day camps with additional guidance provided for overnight camps. Organizations that provide summer day camps on school grounds should use the guidance. Summer learning programs on school grounds should follow CDC’s Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools.
  2. Consistent and layered use of multiple prevention strategies can help camps open safely for in-person activities; protect children, families, and staff; and slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
  3. This guidance describes physical distancing recommendations for day camps that align with current evidence for physical distancing in schools, including at least 3 feet physical distance between campers in the same cohort, except when eating and drinking (at least 6 feet); at least 6 feet physical distance between campers and staff; and at least 6 feet between campers in different cohorts. Additional guidance on physical distancing in overnight camps is also provided.
  4. This guidance outlines strategies that camp programs can use to maintain healthy environments and operations, lower the risk of COVID-19 spread in their programs, prepare for when someone is sick with COVID-19, and support coping and resilience.


Youth and summer camps can play an important role in the lives of children, including supporting their social, emotional, and physical development. Camps provide opportunities for children to try new activities, develop relationship and social skills, and be physically active. In addition to allowing for free play and unstructured learning, many camps also incorporate educational content, which can help prevent summer learning loss. The present guidance is intended to help camp administrators operate camps while preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting campers, their families, staff, and communities.

Camp administrators, in collaboration with state, local, territorial, and tribal health officials, can adapt the recommendations in this guidance to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the populations served. Implementation should be guided by what is acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. This CDC guidance is meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which camps must comply.

This guidance is intended for all types of youth day camps with additional guidance provided for overnight camps. Organizations that provide summer day camps on school grounds should follow this guidance. Summer learning programs on school grounds should follow CDC’s Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention. Some K-12 schools may also require the use of their COVID-19 prevention measures for organizations hosting summer day camps on school grounds.

After reviewing this guidance, camp administrators can use CDC’s Youth Programs and Camps Readiness and Planning Tool pdf icon[492 KB, 9 Pages] to protect campers, staff, and communities.