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Summer camps return but with fewer campers and counselors

UPDATED: Fri., June 11, 2021

By Cedar Attanasio and David Sharp Associated Press

Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. – Overnight summer camps will be allowed in all 50 states this season, but COVID-19 rules and a pandemic labor crunch mean many fewer young campers will attend, and those who do will have to observe coronavirus precautions for the second consecutive year.

The Southeast is the first region to kick off camps this month, with other parts of the country to follow in July.

“Camp might look a little different, but camp is going to look a lot better in 2021 than it did in 2020, when it didn’t happen,” said Matt Norman of Atlanta, who is getting ready to send his 12-year-old daughter to camp.

Even though most camps will be open, reduced capacity necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions and the labor shortage will keep numbers well below a normal threshold of about 26 million summer campers, said Tom Rosenberg of the American Camp Association.

Across the country, many camps face competition for counselors in a tight job market. Traditional recruitment tactics like job fairs on college campuses have been canceled.

“It’s been hard to get people to work,” said Josh Nelson, at Glorieta Adventure Camp, a facility in pine-covered foothills outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A group of Glorieta camp staffers started their orientation by rolling up their sleeves and getting vaccinated in an area between the mess hall and the water slides. But many campers are too young to get the shots because the vaccines have not been approved for children under 12.

That means this year’s camp experience will still involve many of the same prevention practices that were adopted at the small number of camps that operated last year. Those measures include grouping kids in cohorts, mandating masks, emphasizing social distancing – and lots of hand washing. Some states, like Vermont, are offering free virus testing for campers.

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