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Pediatrician Says Benefits Of Summer Camp During Pandemic Outweigh Risks

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Outdoor activities and interacting with friends are some of the best parts of summer camp.

"The benefits outweigh the risks in most situations," says AHN Pediatric Alliance pediatrician Dr. Michael Petrosky.

But some parents worry.

"I'd like to know what protocols they'd put in place. I'd like to know if they were following those protocols," says a concerned parent. "And honestly, I'd like to know the statistics behind how many people have contracted COVID since they implemented the protocols that they think are working."

"If schools have been able to do as well as they had throughout this year, I have a feeling summer camps can do just as well, if not even better," Dr. Petrosky points out.

Because being healthy is important to the experience, you'll want to ask the camp director some questions.

For example, do the kids have to wear masks?

Dr. Petrosky says except for eating, swimming, high-intensity activity or sleeping, "Mask as much as possible. Masks have done a great job of reducing spread and transmission."

This is especially important indoors in large groups, like for rainy day arts and crafts, or movie night. And since the kids don't mask while sleeping, bunks should be as far apart as possible.

Another question: will vaccines be required?

"Kids under 16 right now, they're not eligible," says Dr. Petrosky. "The camps that have a lot of staff vaccinated, I'm sure they'll be proud to say how much of their staff got vaccinated."

Also, will testing be required?

Dr. Petrosky, who is on the board of directors at the Woodlands Foundation Camp, says testing asymptomatic people may miss early infections, so he believes another approach is better.

"Have a plan in place that if someone starts developing symptoms, what's their protocol, how do they quarantine, how do they isolate? Are they able to do some testing there or do parents have to come get them?"

And what will happen if someone tests positive?

"You want to minimize exposure as much as you can, and the best way to do that is to actually send them home," he says.

And another question -- how will activities change to keep everyone safe?

"Anything that causes heavier breathing, where kids are real close to each other, that can put them at slightly higher risk," says Dr. Petrosky. "The more you can do outdoors, the more you can do in smaller groups, the better."

"Instead of it's a game of five kids playing against five kids, it's two versus two, or three versus three." He further explains, "I think you have to modify just the number of people."

For kids at high risk for severe illness or who have health conditions that might make COVID harder to handle, camp might be a little trickier. As with anything, the decision comes down to weighing the pros and cons

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