As the school year comes to an end and summer draws near many parents are wondering if it is safe to send their child to camp or resume other activities. Unfortunately, there is not an easy “yes” or “no” answer to that question. We have no way of knowing whether or not your child will be exposed to COVID-19 while at camp. All we can do is inform you of the measures you and the camp can take to minimize the risk of spread. All decisions in life require an assessment of the benefit as compared to the risk. Our goal with COVID-19 is to try and significantly reduce the risk to such a level that we are willing to accept it. While this approach can feel rather helpless, the truth of the matter is that we do this in lots of areas of our lives. Whenever we get in a car there is no guarantee that we will not get in a wreck, but we take that risk because we believe that we have sufficiently mitigated that risk by wearing a seatbelt and driving safely. Ultimately each parent will have to decide whether or not the safety measures put in place by the camp or daycare are sufficient to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. To help you in that decision, let’s first review how COVID-19 is spread.
According to the CDC, a person can get COVID-19 by:
- coming into close contact (about 6 feet or two arm lengths) with a person who has COVID-19.
- exposure to infected droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
- touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
One of the reasons COVID-19 has caused a global pandemic is that people can spread the virus before they know that they are sick; as a result it is necessary to take infection control precautions even when around healthy people. Just avoiding people who have fever is not sufficient to avoid exposure to COVID-19. The following are steps a camp or daycare can take to lower the risk of your child being exposed to COVID-19:
- Have activities outside
- When an infected person breathes, they can spread a small amount of virus into the air. If an infected person is in an enclosed room with minimal circulation for a long enough amount of time, they can expel enough virus into the air that someone else can breathe it into their body and get sick. When outside or in a well ventilated room, it is not possible for enough of the virus to build up in the air to infect someone else by simply breathing.
- If a camp is held outside, then the risk of spread will be much lower than a camp held inside.
- Screen for symptoms of COVID-19
- While simply avoiding people with fever is not sufficient to avoid COVID-19, avoiding people with any possible symptoms of COVID-19 does lower the risk of exposure. According to the CDC symptoms of COVID-19 include: cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle aches, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have also been associated with COVID-19.
- When considering a camp or daycare, investigate whether they are screening children for all of the COVID-19 symptoms.
- Proper Hand Hygiene
- Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or applying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the hands and allowing it to dry for 20 seconds is one of the most effective tools available for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
- When investigating whether or not to send your child to camp or daycare, ask about their hand hygiene protocols. We recommend that children be required to sanitize their hands upon entry into the camp or daycare, prior to meals or snacks, prior to activities where they will touch other children or share items, after activities where they will touch other children or share items, after blowing their nose, and after touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Wear a mask when indoors or within 6 feet of another person
- Wearing a mask is crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19 when indoors or in close contact with another person as it decreases the amount of virus a person can expel into the air when breathing.
- Ask what your child’s camp or daycare policy is regarding masks. Be aware that the CDC recommends masks only for children ages 2 and older and in some situations masks may not be recommended as they may create an additional risk of injury when participating in certain sports or activities.
- No unnecessary individuals should be present
- The less number of people your child is exposed to the less risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- All camps and daycare facilities should limit the number of people your child is exposed to. This means that parents should not enter camp or daycare facilities and should remain in their car at pick up and drop off if at all possible.
An additional resource to aid in your decision is the Dallas County COVID-19 Risk Level. On a daily basis, the county updates the COVID-19 risk level for Dallas and provides recommendations for various activities based on the risk level. While this tool will not tell you exactly what you should do in every situation, it provides a good starting place to make decisions. The state of Texas has also published a set of minimum guidelines for Day Camps, Overnight Camps, Youth Sports, and Child Care which can also be used to help guide these decisions. Please pay special attention to the State’s recommendation that children who attend camp be restricted from being around people age 65 and older for 14 days after the camp has ended.
While these minimum guidelines should be achieved by all camps and daycares we understand that not every camp or daycare will be able to implement all of the infection control measures that we have recommended; and even if they did implement all of them, it does not guarantee your child will not get exposed to COVID-19. We would love to be able to give you a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question “should my child go to camp”, but unfortunately life right now is not simple. Ultimately each parent will need to assess the risks and benefits of their family’s situation and make a decision. We hope you find all of this information helpful as you try to make a decision. No matter what your decision, we will be here to help you care for your child. In our offices we have implemented all of the recommendations listed above, including the recommendation to do activities outside as we have available curbside visits for sick children in our Frisco and Mesquite offices. We are also available via Virtual Visit for sick visits that do not require an in-person exam as well as to help manage common childhood concerns. If you have additional questions about the safety of attending camp or daycare, or questions about any other concern regarding your child, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule a virtual visit.