State posts rules for summer camps


The Arkansas Department of Health posted to its website the COVID-19 rules for summer day camps on Wednesday, but backdated the directive to May 18 meaning day camps were cleared to open several days ago.

Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said Wednesday the rules had previously been shared with camp organizers and that the public release of the rules would be forthcoming.

An announcement on all summer camps and team sports was expected Wednesday, but was delayed after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson instead traveled to the White House. The day camps directive is separate from rules for overnight camps and the team sports rules which will cover community and school-sponsored team sports. Those opening dates are expected to be announced soon (edit: Overnight camps can begin May 31).

The directive covers organized, daytime group activities for children that may be held outdoors or indoors, including vacation bible school, band camps, and arts camps.

The only people allowed inside a day camp facility are staff, campers, parents or legal guardians of campers, and professionals who are providing services to children.

Children are to be picked up and dropped off outside the facility, unless it is determined there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter the facility. Camps should stagger drop-off and pickup times if possible.

“All efforts should be made to limit the congregation of children,” the rules state, adding that class sizes should include no more than 10 children.

Camp enrollment should be limited to an amount that will allow six feet of social distancing as often as possible, and all field trips and events with outside groups or other camps are prohibited until further notice.

Staff and children age 10 and older should wear cloth face coverings except when exercising.

“For safety reasons, under no circumstances should a mask be placed on a child under 2 years of age,” the rules state.

Children older than 2 years and younger than 10 years are encouraged to wear masks, but the rules acknowledge that kids in that age range may have difficulty wearing masks consistently.

Meals and snacks should be provided individually, and should not be served family-style. Mealtimes should occur in classrooms if at all possible.

Camps should close communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible, otherwise organizers should stagger use of those areas and disinfect them between groups.

Other safety criteria, such as cleaning of frequently touched materials, prohibiting sick children from entering facilities and regular screening of individuals are also included in the directive.

» Read the full directive here

Smith said the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Arkansas reached 5,003 on Wednesday, which was an increase of 80 since Tuesday. All new cases are from the general community, he said. Hospitalizations remain at 78, and there were five additional deaths, bringing the toll to 107. There were 38 recoveries since Tuesday, so the active case count is now at 1,044.