Is it possible to keep kids safe at summer camp and related activities given an uncertain summer?
Summer camp and other extracurricular activities are an important part of a child’s development and wellbeing. As such, even with the uncertainty that comes with possible new variants, there are steps that can be taken to make group activities safer for our children. Each family will need to assess what level of risk they are comfortable with, given their personal family circumstances. Most activities, if children are spread out and outdoors, should be safe. Having an enforced mask policy when in crowded areas or indoors also helps.
When eating, a camp should provide ample space for children to separate. A clear policy on sick or symptomatic children and their exposures should be in place. Clear indications and guidelines for testing can also help to decrease spread. Making sure all staff and camp members are vaccinated would add an additional level of safety.
In the end, different camps will likely have variable layers of protection,
As we move into 2022, the new Omicron variant has become the most common type of COVID-19 and we are all anxiously monitoring how it will affect our children. While most children seemed to fare well with COVID-19, there were some children that had severe illnesses and complications after the infection. Fortunately, the landscape today is a bit different than earlier in the pandemic. Today, vaccines are readily available and effective. Children as young as 5 years old are eligible for the vaccine and it will soon be available to even younger children. While the vaccines will not prevent all infections, they decrease the chance of severe disease and keep children out of the hospital.
The most important thing a parent can do to keep their child safe from COVID-19 is to vaccinate the child and everyone in the family. The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective and safe. As more people are vaccinated, the rate the virus will spread will slow and the risk of developing new variants such as Omicron will decrease. The vaccine will significantly decrease the severity of the disease if your child is exposed.
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Make sure your child has a mask that fits well and teach your child how to properly wear a mask. The mask should be comfortable for your child to wear. Make sure your child knows how to put the mask on by themself. Talk to your child about why masking is important. Monitor for any symptoms and please keep your children at home if they are ill.
Finally, talk to your children about the steps taken to keep them safe and address any questions and concerns your child may have. Prepare and support them as they navigate the changes that may come to their school, sports and activities.
Most outdoor sports are safe without a mask if children are able to stay a safe distance
Boosters are already available for older children and will likely be approved for younger children in the future. While they may not be required for summer camp attendance, they are one of the best ways to decrease the risk of infection and should be considered by the family even if they are not required. The COVID-19 virus and infection prevention are always evolving, so it is always a good idea to talk to your child’s pediatrician for the latest information.
Dr. Lisa Hoang is a board-certified pediatrician with Providence Mission Heritage Medical Group. She attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego and completed her internship and residency at CHOC Children’s Hospital.