COVID-19 vaccine

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Summer camps guidance

The following is intended as a plain-language summary of rules during the COVID-19 emergency and does not replace the need to follow all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Summer camps play a vital role in Philadelphia–they provide children with fun and enrichment and their parents with a source of childcare during the summer months. Keeping campers and staff safe during COVID-19 is of the utmost priority.

The following guidance for camps – both overnight and day camps – will help reduce the risk for COVID-19 for campers and staff. The guidance provided are a set of baseline or minimum recommendations based on guidelines from the CDC, PA Governor Wolf, and the American Camping Association. Childcare and early childhood education centers guidance is also available on this website.

The Health Department strongly encourages all eligible camp staff, including staff who are 16 and older, to get vaccinated as soon as the opportunity is available to reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, and help reduce risk of spreading COVID-19 to other staff, campers, and their families.

The guidance is categorized by the following key practices:

  1. Promote physical distancing
    • Modify schedules – create cohorts
    • Maintain physical distance
    • Modify enrichment activities
    • Minimize contact and crowding
    • Implement food safety procedures
    • Special considerations for overnight camps
  1. Keep the camp clean
  2. Promote healthy habits
  3. Screen campers and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 illness
  4. Plan for when someone becomes sick, potentially exposed to COVID-19
  5. Optimize ventilation when possible

As the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia evolves, there may be additional changes to the guidance, so please connect to the COVID-19 texts (text COVIDPHL to 888-777) to have the most up-to-date information.

Promote physical distancing

Modify schedules to minimize contact – Create cohorts

  • In order to reduce the risk of transmission, camps should both promote physical distancing as well as employ strategies that reduce the number of people in close contact with one another. A close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
  • It will be difficult to prevent campers, especially younger children, from coming into close contact with one another and their counselors. Instead, the goal is to limit the number of people in close contact with one another and the duration of that close contact. This can be done through a cohort model of organizing camp.
  • Create cohorts (small groups) of campers and counselors of a maximum of 30 people total (campers plus counselor/staff). Even smaller cohorts are safer so consider having fewer campers per cohort if staffing and space permits. Campers and counselors should remain in the same cohort for the duration of the summer camp.
    • Campers should do all activities within their cohort and should not mix with other cohorts.
    • If the camp uses classrooms, each cohort should have its own classroom.
    • If the camp does not have classrooms for each cohort, but uses a very large space, such as a gymnasium, use physical barriers as reminders to keep cohorts separate.

Maintain physical distance

  • Physical distancing prevents spread of the COVID-19 infection by limiting the infected person’s close contacts. Establish camp policies and implement strategies to promote physical distancing, indoors and outdoors, of:
    • At least 3 feet between all campers within a cohort.
    • At least 6 feet between all campers outside of their cohort.
    • At least 6 feet while eating and drinking, including among people within the same cohort.
    • At least 3 feet between campers and staff.
    • At least 3 feet between staff.
  • Use barriers, distance markers, floor decals or other visual cues to encourage spacing by campers and staff, especially where adults may be interacting with other adults, camp staff, or campers (for example reception and dining areas).
  • Any specialized staff (for example, speech language pathologists) who provide services to campers within multiple cohorts or multiple camp programs, should take prevention measures to limit the potential transmission of COVID-19, including getting vaccinated if eligible, and wearing masks, or other necessary personal protective equipment. Specialized staff should keep detailed contact tracing logs to aid in contact tracing efforts.
  • If nap times are scheduled for younger campers, assign campers’ naptime mats to individual children, sanitize before and after use, and space them out as much as possible. Campers mats should be arranged head-to-toe to ensure distance between their faces. Masks should not be worn when sleeping.
  • Create physical distance between campers on buses or transportation (e.g., alternate occupying the window and aisle seats) when possible. Campers who live in the same household may be seated together. Masks should be required on buses or transportation. (See full transportation guidance under Modify enrichment activities, below.)

Modify enrichment activities

  • Outdoor air is more desirable than indoor air. Encourage outdoor play and activities as much as possible.
  • Adapt as many activities as possible to be held outdoors. Singing, chanting, and/or playing instruments should be done outdoors.
  • Sports activities: All sports are permitted. Campers should participate in sports only within their cohorts.
    • While indoors, participants — players, coaches, and officials – must remain masked throughout, regardless of vaccination status. This includes at all practices and games regardless of distance from others unless in the pool or on the starting blocks for swimming.
    • While outdoors, follow PA Department of Health guidance. Campers should be encouraged to wear masks in crowded settings or in situations where there is prolonged close contact.
    • Facemasks must be at least 2-ply, should not have gaps and should not fall down. Face shields are not a replacement for a facemask in a camper who can otherwise wear a facemask.
    • Campers who are not fully vaccinated should avoid playing close-contact or indoor sports. If campers will be engaging in close-contact or indoor sports, reduce risk by encouraging vaccination as soon as eligible and by wearing a mask, playing outside, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.
    • Avoid activities where campers from different cohorts interact. For example, stagger use of playgrounds and do not combine cohorts for sports.
    • Minimize spectators, visitors, and volunteers.
    • Adjust physical environment (bench, dugout) as needed to remind participants to stay at least 6 feet apart. For example, place cones or other markers at regular intervals on bleachers to mark seating places for players not actively participating in practice.
  • Field trips: Field trips are permitted within a single cohort. Masks must be worn at all times including while on transportation. Windows should remain open on buses (see full transportation guidance below).
    • Public playgrounds and spray grounds may be used. Stagger visits between cohorts.
  • School transportation (buses, vans, taxis, etc.): Schools and child-facing programs can assist with the mitigation of COVID-19 on transportation by doing the following:
    • Where possible limit school buses to 50% of maximum occupancy.
      • May seat persons behind the driver if barrier is present (plexiglass or plastic curtain). If no barrier is present passengers should sit at least two rows behind the driver.
      • Consider directional flow when loading and unloading the bus. For example, load back to front and unload front to back.
      • Stagger seating where possible. Passengers should alternate occupying the window and aisle seats. Use markers to designate which seats are unavailable.
      • Seat household members together in the same seat when possible.
      • All passengers should face forward when bus is operating.
    • Open windows in buses and other vehicles, if doing so does not pose a safety risk. According to CDC guidance, “even cracking windows open a few inches improves air circulation.” If the vehicle has air conditioning, do not use the “recirculate” mode.
    • Maintain records of seating charts. Schools should reference transportation records when identifying close contacts of recently identified COVID -19 positive individuals.
    • Consider having spare masks to ensure passengers are wearing face masks on buses.
    • Encourage regular hand hygiene upon entering and exiting the vehicle. Provide hand sanitizer at least 60% alcohol at the entry of the school bus.
    • All persons on the bus or other transportation must wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Minimize contact and crowding at pick-up and drop-off

  • Set up hand hygiene stations at the entrance of the facility, so that campers and staff can clean their hands before they enter. If a sink with soap and water is not available, provide hand sanitizer at entrance. Require all parents to wear masks at pick-up and drop-off. If caregivers sign in or out campers, they should use their own pen. If a shared pen is used, it should be wiped with alcohol after each use.
  • Consider the following options to avoid over-crowding during pick-up and drop-off times:
    • Assign staggered arrival and drop-off times for campers.
    • If staffing allows, have staff greet campers outside as they arrive and escort them to their area in the camp and escort campers to exit during drop-off.
    • Have families wait 6 feet apart (can use space marker) while waiting to drop-off their children and complete daily health screen.
      • For staff and students who must use carpools, encourage driver and passengers who do not live together to wear a face mask at all times when sharing a vehicle. Recommend using hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) before and after entering the vehicle. Recommend limiting the number of passengers in the vehicle to only those necessary. If possible, passengers should sit as far as possible from the driver, such as in the rear seat diagonally across from the driver.
      • Recommend improving ventilation by opening the windows or setting the air ventilation/air conditioning on non-recirculation mode. See full transportation guidance above for more information.
  • Face masks should be worn at all times while on transportation.

Implement food safety procedures

  • If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in a classroom or outdoors if available. Otherwise, stagger the use of the cafeteria so that each cohort can maintain social distance from the other cohorts. Try to minimize the number of campers per table. Keep children in their clusters during meals.
  • Assign seats at tables in cafeterias or in classrooms
  • If meals are typically served family-style, plate each camper’s meal to serve it so that multiple campers are not using the same serving utensils.
  • Gloves should be worn when handling or serving food to campers and/ or staff should wash their hands before preparing and distributing food.
  • Sinks used for food preparation should not be used for any other purposes.
  • Campers should wash hands prior to and immediately after eating.
  • Encourage campers and staff to bring in their own water bottles.
  • For staff:
    • Mealtimes are one of the most common times we have seen staff-to-staff transmission of COVID. Remind staff that they should limit the amount of time that they are not wearing a face masks and that they should continue to wear their face masks while in the break room when not actively eating.
    • Stagger break and lunch hours for staff in order to minimize interactions.
    • Move chairs in break rooms so that employees do not sit opposite or next to each other while eating.
    • Post signs alerting employees to maintain distance and avoid eating near or across from each other.

Special considerations for overnight camps:

  • In addition to the considerations listed above, sleep-away camps should also consider:
    • Families should be made aware if camps accept participants from various geographic regions (e.g., community, city, town, county).
    • Consider encouraging staff, campers, family, and any volunteers to be fully vaccinated and wait 2 weeks, before traveling to camp.
    • If not vaccinated, consider asking staff, campers, family, and volunteers to quarantine for 14 days pre-travel to camp (avoid indoor gatherings and people outside household.)
    • Camps may ask campers and staff to get tested 1-3 days before arriving at camp and require a negative test prior to arrival.
    • Some camps might have the capacity to conduct COVID-19 testing. If there is no capacity to conduct COVID-19 testing, identify where campers/staff will get tested.
    • Beds for campers and staff should be arranged head-to-toe.
    • Campers in the same sleeping areas – rooms, bunks, or cabins – may be considered a “household” group. Campers do not have to mask or distance when with their household.
    • Monitor and enforce physical distancing and healthy hygiene behaviors throughout the day and night.
    • Clean and disinfect bathrooms regularly (e.g., in the morning and evening, after times of heavy use) using EPA-registered disinfectants.
    • Assure that each camper has an individual cubby or space for their belongings, including toiletries.
    • Develop a plan for how campers and staff will isolate or quarantine should they become infected or be a close contact. If they will stay on site, 10% of rooms must be reserved for isolation and quarantine. If they will go home, they must be able to get home without using public transportation.
    • Take steps to ensure any external community organizations that share the camp facilities follow these considerations.

Keep the camp clean

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the camp and any school/camp buses regularly. This includes tables, desktops, chairs, doorknobs/handles, light switches, remote controls, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Wipe shared objects (for example, toys, games, art supplies, sporting equipment) between use.
  • Facilities should use EPA-approved cleaning products for use against COVID-19. Store all cleaning products securely and out of the reach of children.

Promote healthy habits

Use facemasks

  • While indoors, all staff and campers aged 2 and older must wear well-fitting facemasks at all times regardless of vaccination status, with the exception of meals, during water activities, and while sleeping. Masks must be worn while playing sports indoors.
    • Consider a mask storage system when campers are eating, drinking, or swimming: individually marked cubbies, bags, or plastic containers.
  • While outdoors, follow PA Department of Health guidance for wearing masks. Unvaccinated campers and staff should be encouraged to wear masks in crowded settings or situations where there is prolonged close contact. Campers and staff should continue safe social distancing. (See Maintain physical distance, above.)
  • Note: Masks should not be placed on:
    • Babies and children younger than 2 years old.
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious.
    • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

Promote hand hygiene & respiratory etiquette

  • Hand hygiene should be practiced at the following times:
    • Entry to the facility and after breaks.
    • Before and after eating.
    • Before and after preparing food and drinks.
    • Before and after medication administration.
    • After using the toilet.
    • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
    • After playing outdoors.
    • Before and after group activities.
  • Encourage staff and campers to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Perform hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.

Screen children and staff for symptoms

  • All camps should create a daily screening checklist for campers and staff which includes screening for fever, symptoms, exposure, and a visual inspection. Parents and guardians should either complete the screener with the student or on their behalf. The Health Department has developed a COVID-19 sample screening tool.
  • Camps have the following screening protocol options:
    • 1) Self-screening: Parents/campers and staff should be given instructions to self-screen at home every day. If they answer yes to any of the screening questions, they should not report to camp.
    • 2) Self-screening with reporting: Parents/campers and staff should complete a daily screener (paper, app-based, or web-based). A designated staff-person at the camp should be responsible for reviewing completed screeners every day and ensuring that those with a positive screen do not enter the facility.
    • 3) On-site screening (not preferred): A designated staff person should administer the screener for all campers and staff daily upon arrival to the facility. Those with a positive screen should not enter the facility.
  • Fever: If either a child or staff member has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, they should remain home.
    • Oral thermometers should not be used for on-site temperature screening.
  • Symptoms: If a children or staff member has symptoms of COVID-like illness, the child or staff member should return or remain home.
  • COVID-like illness is defined as:
    At least ONE of these major symptoms OR At least TWO of these
    minor symptoms
    new or persistent cough

    shortness of breath

    new loss of sense of smell

    new loss of sense of taste



    muscle pain


    sore throat




    congestion/runny nose

    • Visual Inspection: If a child has signs of illness, which could include flushed cheeks, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing (without recent physical activity), fatigue, or extreme fussiness, cough, or shortness of breath, the child should stay home.
    • Exposure: If a staff member or child has been exposed to anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 10 days, they should return or remain home.  The Health Department has developed a sample test result letter to be given to caregivers explaining why the child is being dismissed and criteria for returning to the facility.

Plan for when someone becomes sick

Encourage staff and parents to talk to their own and their children’s physicians about their individual risk factors for COVID-19 and the risks of working at or attending camp. We strongly recommend flexibility and accommodations for staff who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as those 65 years and older and those with weakened immune systems.

Ensure facility has updated contact information (including date of birth, phone number, home address, grade level, and cohort) for all staff and families to facilitate contact tracing and rapid communication.

  • The Health Department has created a sample parent/guardian agreement that describes their commitment to keeping their children home when sick and seeking appropriate medical care.
  • Camps should designate an isolation room or area for anyone who experiences COVID-like symptoms. If using the nurse’s office, this area should be at least six feet apart from where other children or staff use the nurse’s office. If possible, use screens or room curtains to create a barrier between individuals who are ill and in nurse’s office.
  • Staff who develop symptoms of COVID-like illness should immediately be sent home. If they need to be picked up, they should wait in the designated isolation room or area while awaiting transportation.
  • There should be adult supervision of the camper. The staff member waiting with the camper should wear a surgical mask.
  • If a person becomes sick and needs to be transported, establish procedures for safely transporting them.  If you are calling an ambulance or bringing someone to a healthcare facility, try to call first to alert them that the person may have COVID-19.
  • If a camper or staff member has a diagnosis of COVID-19:
    • During normal business hours, please contact the Philadelphia Department of Public Health call center at (215) 685-5488, which is operational on weekdays (8:30 am-5 pm) and weekends (9 am-5 pm). Inquiries and reports may also be emailed to
    • Follow Health Department guidance for calculating isolation and quarantine period.
    • Individuals with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 should isolate:
      • A confirmed case of COVID-19 is someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
      • A probable case is someone who has had close contact with someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days and develops a COVID-like illness.
      • Isolation means staying in a separate room from others, using a separate bathroom, avoiding contact with other household members and pets, and not sharing personal items, including utensils, cups, and towels.
      • In accordance with Health Department guidance, the individuals with a confirmed or probable case should self-isolate until all of the following are true: 1) at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms AND 2) fever free without fever-reducing medications for 24 hours AND 3) symptoms are improving.
      • Isolation may need to be extended for certain individuals who continue to have symptoms, have severe COVID, or have a severely weakened immune system. Refer to CDC guidelines on duration of isolation for more details.
    • The Health Department will assist in identifying individuals who may have been in close contact with the case at the school during the case’s infectious period.
      • The infectious period begins 2 days before the individual with COVID-19 became symptomatic (or, for asymptomatic individuals, 2 days prior to specimen collection for testing). The infectious period goes through the case’s duration of isolation.
      • If the individual with COVID-19 was present at the camp during their infectious period, in-person activities for that individual’s close contacts must be paused for 10 days following last exposure. Others in the camper’s cohort can continue in-person activities at the camp, as long as they are not deemed a close contact. These individuals must continue to monitor symptoms.
      • Per CDC guidelines, the Health Department currently defines students and staff as close contacts, regardless of face mask use, as:
        • Anyone who was within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Camps should consider the following settings when determining close contacts: classrooms, lunchrooms, athletic teams and extracurricular activities, dorm rooms/bunks (if sleep-away), after-school and other events, and transportation by bus, van, or carpool.
        • To aid in identifying close contacts, camps should keep close records of the athletics, cafeteria seating, extracurricular activities, and transportation.
        • Limit congregation in common areas (hallways between classrooms), at lockers, and in any other communal spaces.
      • Close contacts should self-quarantine. Quarantine means individuals will stay home for 10 days after their last contact with someone who has COVID-19. Quarantine may be shortened to 7 days using a test-based strategy. Individuals should watch for symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, or new loss of taste or smell, and stay away from others as much as possible. See calculating isolation and quarantine period.
      • If an individual develops a COVID-like illness during quarantine, they are considered a probable case – see above for recommendations.
      • Quarantine is also recommended for those individuals who were potentially exposed to COVID-19 in the broader community.
    • The COVID-19 positive individual does NOT need a repeat COVID test or a doctor’s note in order to return to the camp.
    • Persons who have been fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine when exposed to someone with COVID-19 if they meet the following criteria:
      • They are fully vaccinated, and it’s been at least 2 weeks after the last dose in the vaccine series.
      • They have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.
    • Note: Persons with only one vaccine shot in a 2-shot series are not fully vaccinated and should be asked to quarantine should there be any close contact with an infected individual.
    • Vaccination is not 100% effective.
      • Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should get tested.
      • Anyone who is positive for COVID-19 must isolate according to CDC guidelines.
      • After vaccination you must still wear a mask, keep your distance, and avoid crowds.

Quarantine and closure thresholds for schools

  • For the camp setting we are defining close contacts as those individuals that have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, masked or unmasked. 
Single case of COVID-19 in a camp or extracurricular cohort Those identified as a close contact will be asked to quarantine. Camp attendance for these individuals will be paused for 10 days. This may be shortened to 7 days with a negative test after day 5.
2 or more cases for a cohort The entire cohort must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
2 or more cases in 2 or more bunks of the same age group with an epidemiological link to the camp The entire age group must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Multiple cases in staff/campers:

3 within 14 days with epi link


6 or more within 14 days (regardless of source of exposure)

The entire school/camp//child facing program must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Multiple COVID-19 clusters across grades The entire school//camp/child facing program must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*
Single case of COVID-19 on an athletic team The entire cohort/team must quarantine. The recommended quarantine is 10 days.*

* Quarantine may be shortened using a test-based strategy. Individuals who test negative after day 5 may return after day 7.

Quarantines and pauses of 7 and 10 days are contingent upon 100% mask usage except during distanced meals. Activities where masks cannot be worn, such as playing certain instruments, must be paused for the full 14 days. Symptom monitoring must continue for the entire 14 days regardless of vaccination status.

Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine. Testing after day 5 after an exposure or upon symptom onset is recommended. Fully vaccinated individuals with symptoms must isolate and be tested.

  • Returning to camp
    • If a child or staff member in a camp cohort has COVID-like illness they can return to camp if:
      • Initial COVID-19 testing is negative, and individual meets the camp’s normal criteria for return after an illness, OR
      • A clinician has evaluated the child and documented an alternative diagnosis, OR
      • COVID-19 testing was not done and all of the following are true: at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms AND fever-free off anti-fever medications for 3 days AND symptoms are improving.
  • Cleaning/disinfecting after a COVID or COVID-like illness:
    • Close off indoor areas used by the person who is sick.
    • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the areas.
    • Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as classroom, bed, offices, dorm rooms, bathrooms, and common areas.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces in your isolation room or area and in the classroom the sick child or staff members was in after the sick child or staff member has gone home.

Optimize ventilation

  • If possible, increase ventilation in the building by either:
    • Opening windows and/or doors on opposite sides of the building and using fans to blow outside air through the building OR
    • Optimizing ventilation provided by the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system by:
      • Having the HVAC system checked to assure that it is working properly. If it can be adjusted, the system should be set to provide at least 6 air exchanges per hour.
      • Maximizing the amount of outside air circulated by the system.
      • Installing filters with minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of 13, or the highest compatible with the filter rack.
      • Checking that the external air inlet duct is not blocked and that it is at least 15 feet from people.

If you believe there was a COVID-19 case at your camp (camper or staff), call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health at 215-685-5488 for further instructions. The Department will consult with you on management issues for your facility.

Additional resources