ODH releases guidelines to stop spread of COVID-19 in overnight camps after 2 outbreaks in Miami Valley

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Following two COVID-19 outbreaks at two summer camps in the Miami Valley, the Ohio Department of Health is issuing guidelines to help stop the spread of the coronavirus at residential camps.

The guidance recommends implementing layers of protection for campers and staff who are not fully vaccinated, the ODH said in a release.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the chief medical officer of the ODH, said the best protection against COVID-19 is getting vaccinated. He encourages anyone 12 and older who can safely get vaccinated to do so to help protect those who cannot get vaccinated.

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“Vaccination is our most effective tool for preventing COVID-19 and putting the pandemic behind us,” Vanderhoff said. “These vaccines save lives and will help ensure Ohioans are able to enjoy many more summers to come.”

“If not everyone at a residential camp is fully vaccinated, the layering of strategies is critical to protecting campers, staff, and volunteers,” Vanderhoff said. “This is especially important as a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 settles in our state. Taking these precautions can help reduce the likelihood of spread and allow everyone to safely participate in camp activities.”

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County last week reported an outbreak at Camp Chautauqua near Miamisburg. As of Friday, nearly 80 cases were linked to campers — many too young for vaccination — who attended the camp the week of June 28.

Preble County Public Health last week reported a coronavirus outbreak at Woodland Trails Scout Reservation near Camden, operated by the Miami Valley Council of Boy Scouts of America. There were at least four positive cases following the July 4-10 camp, which led the Scouts to cancel camp sessions.

The ODH recommends encouraging vaccination for all eligible campers, staff and volunteers and encouraging frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

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To avoid spreading COVID-19 in large groups, the ODH recommends establishing cohorts or “pods” of campers and staff who stay together the entire camp, minimizing potential exposure. Whenever possible, campers should maintain at least three feet of space between any other camper in their cohort and six feet of space between someone outside their cohort.

Campers who are staying together in the same cabin, bunkhouse or other similar space do not need to wear masks, as long as they can maximize physical distance and there are no other cohorts nearby.

When other cohorts are nearby in an indoor space, the ODH recommends those who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask. If possible, the ODH recommends improving ventilation in any indoor spaces, such as by opening windows.

If someone is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the guidelines recommend a mask that covers the mouth, nose and chin to protect themselves and others. Masks should be worn indoors if it is not a residence, outdoors if social distancing is not possible and when riding, driving or operating public transit such as a bus, taxi, car service or ride sharing vehicle.

Regardless of vaccination status, people may be asked to wear a mask in a medical environment, the guidelines state.

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If anyone shows signs of COVID-19, they should stay away from others and seek medical care if necessary. Individuals who have or likely have COVID-19 should isolate for at least 10 days, the ODH reported. If someone is fully vaccinated, quarantining or testing after exposure is not necessary unless the individual develops symptoms, the ODH said.