Millions of American children face having to wear masks at summer camp, after CDC guidance said only vaccinated kids could leave them off.
Children and teenagers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing at summer camp, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated in recommendations released on Friday.
However, youngsters who have not gotten their shots are recommended to keep wearing face coverings.
Currently, only children aged 12 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine, meaning that younger children will be showing up to summer camps unvaccinated. That means they must still wear masks as a result.
Vaccine clinical trials are currently underway for children under the age of 12, although no indication has been given as to when the shots may be approved for that age group. The guidelines are a change from previous guidelines unveiled by the CDC, that required masks and at least three feet of distancing for almost all activities.
Children will return to summer camp soon, and the CDC released new guidelines for how to safely carry out the camps. Camps where all are vaccinated will largely return to normal, though the guidelines for camps with unvaccinated people are a little vague
At camps where not all people are vaccinated, vaccinated people do not need to wear masks but unvaccinated people are ‘strongly encouraged’ to use masks and practice social distancing for indoor activities.
The guidelines for outdoor activities are unclear, though, leaving discretion up to the camp themselves.
‘In general, people don’t need to wear masks outdoors,’ Erin Sauber-Schatz, head of the CDC’s Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force, told NBC.
That includes unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people due to the really low risk of transmission outside.
‘Even though outdoors is really safe, there are still key times when if you’re not fully vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask.’
She did not elaborate on what those ‘key times’ are, leaving the term open to interpretation.
Camps that include unvaccinated children will be recommended to use masks and social distancing indoors. Outdoors, the instructions are more vague and leave things up to the counselors interpretation
When assembled in large groups, the CDC recommends for children to be masked and distanced at least three feet from each other if they are not vaccinated, even outside.
During activities where they are more spread out, like playing a sport, they are ok to take off their masks, though, a change from the initial guidelines.
The CDC also recommends not to wear masks during any activity that involves water, as a wet mask can make it hard for a child to breathe.
‘I think camps are going to need a little more support and information,’ said Dr Richard Besser, former director of the CDC.
‘If CDC can get more specific, it would be helpful.’
Besser and other health experts believes the vagueness of the outdoor guidelines could prove to be dangerous, as some camp instructors may not take enough precautions to protect children even when trying to follow guidelines.
The guidelines are non-binding, and in the end, camps will only have to abide by whatever the laws are in the state they operate in.
Many camp counselors are likely to take the CDC’s guidelines into account when organizing activities this summer, though.
Last month, the CDC was blasted for being ‘draconian’ with initial guidelines, causing them to redeliberate and revise guidelines.
The initial guidelines only recommended for masks to come off when children were taking part in activities that included water, like swimming.
At the time of those guidelines’ release, the vaccine was not yet approved for Americans under age 16.
At least 600,000 children have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and the first batch of children to get vaccinated will likely get their second dose in the coming weeks, CDC data show.
Children have accounted for nearly four million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, but only make up 0.1 percent of all deaths.
While their risk of death or other complications is significantly lower than it is for others they can still become vectors within an outbreak.
Camps also have more people on-site than just children as well, with many adults working at the camp who could be at risk of complications from the virus.