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Summer Camps Guidelines


Now, as always, camps and other childcare providers play a critical role in their communities. Each camp must make the decision whether to be open or closed, based on their unique situation and the needs in their community. At a minimum, however, camps seeking to operate during this time should refer the decision tree published by the CDC to determine camp readiness for re-opening. In addition, camps should follow the guidelines discussed here.

These guidelines do not replace or supersede any requirements applicable to your business or licensed employees pursuant to law or regulation. Rather, these guidelines are intended as a supplement to assist with safely reopening and providing services due to COVID-19. These guidelines are subject to change.


Safeguarding Guidance

In addition to strict adherence to CDC guidelines, the State recommends summer camps put into place an assortment of measures to protect campers and staff, including:

Employee Protection

  • Screen all staff reporting to work for COVID-19 symptoms with the following questions:
    • Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days (Note: does not apply to medical personnel, first responders, or other individuals who encounter COVID-19 as part of their professional or caregiving duties while wearing appropriate PPE)?
    • Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath or sore throat?
    • Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
    • Have you had new loss of taste or smell?
    • Have you had vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?
  • Temperature screening staff:
    • Best practice: employers to take staff temperatures onsite with a no-touch thermometer each day upon arrival at work
    • Minimum: temperatures can be taken before arriving. Normal temperature should not exceed 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Direct any staff who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., answers “yes” to any of the screening questions or who is running a fever) to leave the premises immediately and seek medical care and/or COVID-19 testing, per Tennessee Department of Health and CDC guidelines. Employers should maintain the confidentiality of employee health information.
  • All staff should stay home if feeling ill, report any symptoms of illness to supervisor and require notification of COVID-19 positive case in employee’s household. Employees who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the CDC (e.g., due to age or severe underlying medical conditions) are encouraged to stay home
  • Staff should wear cloth face coverings (not an N-95 or medical mask, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) while at work and in public to help protect against the spread of the virus as recommended by the CDC
  • Provide training for staff on personal protective equipment based on CDC guidelines
  • Provide a sanitizing station for staff such as a wash station with soap and running water and/or bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Practice recommended social distancing to the greatest extent possible—“Further is safer”
  • Stagger shifts, breaks and meals, in compliance with wage and hour laws and regulations, to maintain social distancing
  • Prohibit congregating in break rooms or common areas and limit capacity of such areas to allow for safe social distancing minimum of 6 feet whenever possible
  • Staff should increase hygiene practices—wash hands more frequently, avoid touching face, practice good respiratory etiquette when coughing or sneezing
  • Plan for potential COVID-19 cases, and work with local health department officials when needed (e.g., monitor and trace COVID-19 cases, deep clean facilities)
  • Covered employers and employees should be aware of the provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allows for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons, such as for self-quarantining or seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms
  • Prepare for absence of critical staff by developing a roster of qualified individuals who can fill in if staff members are absent due to COVID-19 or other circumstances
  • Post extensive signage on health policies, including the following documents, in the camp to help educate staff, families, and campers on COVID-19 best practices:

Consumer Protection

  • Screen campers for illness upon arrival to camp each day:
    • Temperature checks for every camper. Campers with temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not be permitted on premise
    • Question campers and/or their guardian regarding COVID-19 symptoms
      • Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days? (Note: This does not apply to medical personnel, first responders, or other individuals who encounter COVID-19 as part of their professional or caregiving duties while wearing appropriate PPE.)
      • Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat?
      • Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
      • Have you had vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?
  • Limit Group Sizes and Mixing: Cohort campers in small groups of ten or fewer campers and schedule those small groups to do activities and eat meals together. Limit congregation and mixing between cohorts. Groupings should include, to the extent possible, the same children each day to minimize potential exposure. Limit the mixing of camper groups, by staggering special activities for example. Clean or disinfect equipment between groups, when possible.
  • Campers should be encouraged to wear cloth face coverings if age and developmentally appropriate. Do not place cloth face covering on children under 2 years of age or on children who cannot place and remove their face covering without assistance. Do not place cloth face coverings on children who are sleeping. If placement of the cloth face covering is not tolerated by the child, or if its use results in increased touching of the eyes and face, allow the child to participate in camp without the use of a face covering
  • Hold small group trainings and demonstrations on behaviors and precautions campers should abide by to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Review social distancing rules with campers at the beginning of each day and remind them, as necessary, throughout the day
  • Post signs encouraging social distancing (visible to campers and staff)
  • Review respiratory etiquette for coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing and remind campers to wash hands
  • Require that campers wash or sanitize their hands upon arriving at and leaving camp each day, as well as after using the bathroom and before eating
  • Encourage campers to maintain distancing from one another, where feasible
  • Keep doors and windows open when indoors to improve ventilation, where possible and when fire code compliance and security may be maintained
  • Clean camper work/project areas and other hard surfaces campers come in contact with using disinfecting wipes before and after each use. Limit moving back and forth between work stations unless proper cleaning can be performed
  • All shared items and equipment should be properly cleaned and disinfected between use, according to CDC guidelines on sanitization
  • Encourage that persons more vulnerable or at-risk for COVID-19 as identified by the CDC—including those who have underlying medical conditions—take extra precaution or refrain from attending camp
  • Research and the CDC suggests that activities like singing or using a projected voice may project respiratory droplets in greater quantity and over greater distance, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with prolonged exposure. Therefore, any singing activities should take place outdoors and campers should maintain at least 15 feet of separation—and more if possible—between each other


Business Process Adaptations

  • Limit non-essential persons in the facility. Restrict non-essential visitors and volunteers to reduce possible COVID-19 exposure. Providers should prohibit persons from the facility with the exceptions of:
    • Facility staff
    • Persons with a legal authority to enter, including law enforcement officers, childcare licensing staff, and Child Protective Services staff
    • Professionals providing services to children
    • Children enrolled at the facility
    • Parents or legal guardians who have children enrolled and present at the facility
  • Communicate expectations to families in advance of the start of camp to ensure that families have time to ask and receive answers to questions and talk with their children about camp rules and expectations
  • Pick-up and drop-off protocols: Pick-up and drop-off should occur outside the facility, unless it is determined that there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter a facility. Hand hygiene stations should be set up at the entrance of the facility, with supervised use. Consider staggering arrival and drop off times and/or have staff come outside the facility to pick up the children as they arrive. Mitigate exposure by implementing social distancing guidelines and modify scheduling
  • Staff should conduct regular (i.e., at least every 2 hours) disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, equipment and common areas of the facility using disinfectant cleaning supplies according to CDC guidelines and applicable licensing agencies
  • If a camper or staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19:
    • Close off areas used by the person who is sick. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the areas.
    • Wait up to 24 hours or as long as possible before you clean or disinfect to allow respiratory droplets to settle before cleaning and disinfecting.
    • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, and common areas.
    • If more than 7 days have passed since the person who is sick visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
  • Hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations should be easily accessible and located throughout camp
  • Limit the number of campers and staff present at one time in bathroom facilities to reduce spread of the virus within those confined spaces
  • Modify dining plans in order to maximize social distancing. For example, campers should eat meals with their assigned cohort/small group and maintain at least 6 feet between each cohort/group. Consider staggered meal shifts reduce density of persons within dining areas.  
  • Cancel field trips, inter-group events, and extracurricular activities​ to reduce exposure to outside individuals and other locations that may not be sanitized in accordance with CDC protocols
  • Close communal rooms such as showers, locker rooms and lockers until further notice. Ask campers instead to use small gym or similar bags to store personal belongings.
  • Implement appropriate protocols for any aquatic venues, such as swimming pools, in accordance with CDC Considerations for Public Pools and ERG’s Swimming Pool Guidelines, which at a minimum should include:
    • Modify layouts of deck chairs and tables and limit capacity for the number of persons allowed in an aquatic venue at one time to ensure at least 6 feet of separation between small groups of campers. Provide physical reminders for social distancing (e.g., lane lines in pool, non-slip tape on deck, or signs).
    • Implement cleaning and disinfecting practices for frequently touched surfaces at least daily and more frequently for shared objects such as toys and sports equipment.
    • Assign monitoring and cleaning responsibilities to a staff member other than a lifeguard on duty
  • Temporarily close water fountains and encourage campers to provide their own water. Discourage the sharing of food and drinks between campers
  • Ensure that staffing of facilities is sufficient to enable enhanced sanitization and cleaning measures
  • Encourage parents to observe special activities or performances virtually, rather than in-person

Overnight Camps

Before resuming overnight camps, the Economic Recovery Group advises operators to consider additional protective measures for residential camps as outlined in the American Camp Association (ACA) guidance. In addition to the other recommendations herein, the following guidelines apply to overnight camps:

  • Be cautious with staff and campers who live within geographic areas experiencing greater COVID-19 case prevalence
  • Consider additional pre-screening measures, such as obtaining COVID-19 testing or monitoring for symptoms, including daily temperature checks, during the 10-14 days prior to arrival
  • Limit mixing or rotating cohorts of campers and staff assigned to cabins or residences throughout the session. Additionally, limit cabin access to those who reside in that cabin
  • Modify sleeping arrangements to incorporate social distancing (e.g., space beds at least 6 feet apart, limit number of persons per cabin or tent, align mats/beds so that persons sleep head-to-toe at least 6 feet apart)
  • Avoid sharing common items such as soap, towels, bedding, etc. Personal items like toothbrushes should be stored separately and in sealed containers to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Group campers by cabin and stagger daily activities (e.g., showers, restroom breaks, dining, transportation, programming, etc.) to minimize interactions between groups and reduce density of persons in an area
  • Identify an isolation area to separate anyone who begins to exhibit COVID-like symptoms and is not able to immediately leave the facility. Have the person wear a mask until departure and seek healthcare. Monitor persons who had close contact with the ill individual

Additional Resources: