By Ray King

The Arkansas Department of Health has released guidelines for opening summer residential camps, both day and overnight camps.

For overnight camps, staff and campers are strongly encouraged to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival at the camp and also strongly encouraged to have a COVID-19 test preformed within four days prior to being admitted to the camp.

Staff and campers 10 years of age and older are required to wear cloth face masks to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. Face coverings are not required while exercising, eating, bathing or sleeping.

According to the directive, counselors can arrive no earlier than May 24 and campers no earlier than May 31.

The use of volunteers is discouraged but if they are used, they are required to comply with all the rules for staff and are to be considered as staff.

Summer overnight camps will permit entry to the camp only to counselors and staff, children enrolled at the camp, parents or legal guardians who have children enrolled and have a legitimate need to be there, and professionals providing services such as food suppliers and delivery drivers.

Parents and professionals who enter the facility are required to sign in and wear masks and children are required to be picked up outside the camp unless there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter the facility and then the parent should remain in the vehicle and be masked.

Camps should ensure that staff and student groupings change as little as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff and limit mixing between groups.

Hand sanitizers should be available in as many places as possible and hand washing is required before each meal. Areas that are frequently touched such as playground equipment, shared objects, door handles and drinking fountains must be cleaned and sanitized multiple times per day.

Camps should consider serving meals in cabins or classrooms to further segregate groups and access to single service items like plastic silverware, condiment packets and napkins should be provided individually.

It is also recommended that cabins should be arranged so that physical distancing can be achieved to the extent possible with six-feet between campers heads while in bunks. Bunk beds could be arranged head to toe to aid in achieving this. Shower times should be staggered.

For day camps, class sizes should be limited to 10 or less and enrollment should be limited to numbers that allow proper physical distancing. All field trips and outside events are prohibited in this phase.