Keys to a Successful Camp Opening Utilizing a Repeated COVID-19 Testing Protocol

March 22, 2021
Camper wearing mask

Most states are establishing regulations and guidance for the re-opening of overnight and day camps. This guidance may include COVID-19 testing to reassure parents and camp staff that camps are using best practices in maintaining a safe environment this summer. Camps have several options when it comes to testing campers and staff.

Below are three COVID-19 testing periods that can be used to help maintain a safe environment for campers and staff.

1. Pre-camp testing (COVID-19 PCR Testing)

Camps may require parents to obtain COVID-19 tests from urgent care centers, pharmacies, or local doctors and provide the test results to the camp before the session starts. Another option is using a preferred camp testing vendor for all of the campers and staff which provides consistency in testing, customer service, HIPAA compliance, and will reduce administrative time in managing results.

2. Testing when campers arrive on the first day of camp

Testing of campers and staff upon arrival to camp is another step that states may require to ensure the safety of the camp community and/or camps can utilize as another option for testing campers. Rapid antigen testing is a quicker testing option than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. PCR testing can take from six to 72 hours to obtain results (depending on the lab), while rapid antigen tests provide results in five to 15 minutes per camper. A best practice is to take a PCR test to confirm results after taking a rapid antigen test. Several rapid antigen test kits on the market have the ability to rack tests; this will allow for quick testing of multiple campers at one time and ease of obtaining results. Much has changed in the way of rapid antigen test accuracy and sensitivity testing in the last three months. New manufacturers have recently gained pre EUA certification to sell in the United States and will be widely used in camps, schools, large events, and sports venues. Rapid antigen testing can be used effectively to screen for potential exposure after a PCR test is conducted and campers are waiting to go to camp. It is the camp’s responsibility to research state and federal guidelines when developing a testing protocol for your camp. 

3. COVID-19 testing once camp is in session

If campers are staying more than one week in a communal living situation, it is highly recommended that they receive a PCR test after 4-7 days of arrival at camp. The PCR tests are 99 percent accurate and provide a reassurance that the camps entry protocols for campers each session are backed up by another line of defense. If campers develop symptoms, they may be able to use an antigen test for quicker results and then repeat that test or follow up with a PCR test for confirmation.

Campers will have a healthy sense of normalcy this summer if a well thought out plan is in place before camp starts. Studies show that a multi-disciplined approach to COVID 19 safety protocols is a best practice to limit the spread of the virus. By developing a comprehensive COVID-19 plan that includes testing, summer of 2021 will be a great success.

This blog post was provided by Camp Testing. Camp Testing is powered by DNA Analytical Services in partnership with Crest Diagnostics LLC. Camp Testing provides COVID-19 self-administered PCR testing and Rapid Antigen Testing to camps nationwide.

Periodically, the American Camp Association (ACA) makes timely and relevant information about products and services available to its members so they can make informed decisions for their camps. However, the ACA does not endorse products, services, or companies.