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Summer Recreation, Camps and Pools Frequently Asked Questions

July 9, 2020

The Wolf Administration understands the need to secure child care options as parents and caregivers return to work in counties designated as in the yellow or green phase across Pennsylvania in accordance with the Governor's phased reopening plan. Families select summer child care based on numerous factors including availability, parent and caregiver work schedules, age and interest of their children, among others.  

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is issuing these Frequently Asked Questions to provide guidance to summer camp operators, public bathing places, part-day school age programs, and other entities that provide necessary child care and enrichment and recreational activities for children and youth during the summer months.

This guidance does not apply to public school-operated summer programs or extended school year services. Guidance related to reopening public schools will be released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

This guidance has been updated to reflect the Order of the Secretary of the PA Department of Health Requiring Universal Face Coverings. New sections will appear in red text throughout the document. Please consult the Department of Health's Universal Face Coverings Order FAQ for additional information on the Order.

Q: What types of summer programs for children and youth are permitted to operate during the Governor's phased-in reopening plan?

Summer programs that provide child care and enrichment and recreational activities for children and youth are permitted to operate without a waiver in counties in the yellow and green phases of the Governor's phased-in reopening plan provided they follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for Youth and Summer Camps and the CDC Supplemental Guidance for Child Care That Remain Open.

Summer programs include child care facilities regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the following part-day school age programs:

  • A part-day school-age program that operates for less than 90 consecutive days per calendar year from the date the program opens to the date the program closes;
  • A part-day school age program that operates 2 hours or less per day for 3 or fewer days per week;
  • A part-day school age program that has a single purpose for the children's attendance and that purpose is the only focus of the program (e.g., soccer or art class); and
  • A drop-in program where a child or youth may come and go at will.

Overnight organized camps registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and organized team sports may not operate in counties in the yellow phase. Overnight camps and organized team sports may begin or resume operations once in the green phase of the Governor's phased-in reopening plan in accordance with CDC guidance for Youth and Summer Camps.

Coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least six feet. Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition that prevent the wearing of face coverings, but must wear face coverings when on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. and anytime six feet of social distancing is not possible.

Professional sports are not included in the scope of this FAQ.

Q: Are there additional requirements for summer programs operating in counties in the yellow and green phases beyond what is required by the CDC guidance for youth programs and camps?

Summer programs operating in counties in the yellow or green phase of the Governor's phased-in reopening plan must develop a written health and safety plan that follows the CDC guidance for Youth and Summer Camps and post the plan on the summer program's publicly available website prior to providing services to children. If a summer program does not have a publicly available website, alternatives must be used to communicate the health and safety plan to parents and caregivers, such as mailing the plan to all registrants or having written information available at drop off and pick up locations.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's (CHOP's) PolicyLab issued considerations for school reopening which may be useful for summer program operators as they consider how to implement the CDC guidance for Youth and Summer Camps including masking, sanitation and hygiene, and physical distancing. The CDC also published a decision tree to assist directors or administrators in making reopening decisions regarding youth programs and camps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Are summer programs operating in counties in the yellow and green phases permitted to operate fully indoor, fully outdoor, or a combination of indoor and outdoor?

Summer programs in counties in the yellow or green phase may hold activities both indoor and outdoor.

Q: Are there any limitations on group sizes for summer programs that are permitted to operate in counties in the yellow and green phases?

Social distancing in summer programs and child care may look different than the common practice of maintaining six feet of distance between individuals. In the case of summer programming for children and youth, the social distancing considerations are as follows:

  • If possible, groups should include the same group members each day, and the same staff providers should remain with the same group every day.
  • Consider whether to alter or halt daily group activities that may promote transmission.
    • Keep each group of children in a separate room or space.
    • Limit the mixing of children, such as staggering playground times and keeping groups separate for special activities such as art, music, and exercising.
  • Consider staggering arrival and drop off times and/or having staff come outside the facility to pick up the children as they arrive. Your plan for curb side drop off and pick up should limit direct contact between parents and staff members and adhere to social distancing recommendations of six feet during this time.

Q: Are staff and youth required to wear face coverings while participating in child care and summer programs that are permitted to operate in counties in the yellow and green phases?

All staff must wear face coverings during child care and summer program operations unless they fit one of the exceptions included in Section 3 of the Secretary of Health's Universal Face Covering Order. Summer programs and staff should consult Department of Health guidance on homemade masks.

Children 2 years old and older are required to wear a face covering, unless they fit one of the exceptions included in Section 3 of the Secretary of Health's Universal Face Covering Order.

The Department of Health recognizes that getting younger children to be comfortable wearing face coverings and to keep them on may create some difficulties. Under these circumstances, parents, guardians, licensed child care providers in community-based and school settings or responsible persons may consider prioritizing the wearing of face coverings to times when it is difficult for the child to maintain a social distance of at least six feet from others who are not a part of their household  (e.g., during carpool drop off or pick up, or when standing in line at school).  Ensuring proper face covering size and fit and providing children with frequent reminders and education on the importance and proper wearing of cloth face coverings may help address these issues.

Any child who cannot wear a mask or face shield due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability, and children who would be unable to remove a face covering without assistance are not required to wear face coverings. Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, also are not required to wear a mask.  Other face coverings, such as plastic face shields, may also accommodate such disabilities.

Children do not need to wear face coverings if they are outdoors and able to maintain six feet from individuals who are not members of their household.

If a child 2 years old or older is unable to remove a face covering without assistance, the child is not required to wear one.

Youth in overnight camp may remove their masks once inside their cabin as long as social distancing is maintained.

Additionally, child care and summer programs may allow children to remove their face coverings when they are:

  1. Eating or drinking when spaced at least six feet apart;
  2. Seated at desks or assigned learning or play spaces at least six feet apart; or
  3. Engaged in any activity at least six feet apart (e.g. face covering breaks, recess, etc.).

Q: If a summer program is planning operations in a county that is in the yellow or green phase, must they restrict enrollment to only children residing in counties with similar designations

No, there are no restrictions limiting enrollments based on the designation of where children reside and enrollment in summer program activities. 

Q: Are public playgrounds part of the Governor's phased reopening plan?

Public playgrounds may be used by child care providers and summer programs offered in counties in the yellow or green phase. Summer programs must adhere to CDC guidance for Child Care Programs That Remain Open, including cleaning and disinfecting, and social distancing practices.

Q: Are organized team sports permitted during the Governor's phased reopening plan?

Organized sports are only permitted in counties in the green phase of the Governor's phased reopening plan.  Organized team sports and events are defined as physical activity directed by adult or youth leaders that involves rules and formal practice and competition. This includes school and club sports as well as youth and adult formal activities.  Physical activity conducted as part of summer programming is allowed. Activities and games with little or no physical contact are recommended. Professional sports are not included in the scope of this FAQ.

Coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings unless they are outdoors and can consistently maintain social distancing of at least six feet. Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition that prevent the wearing of face coverings, but must wear face coverings when on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. and anytime six feet of social distancing is not possible.

Q: Are public bathing places regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other community pools permitted to operate during the Governor's phased reopening plan?

Public bathing places and other outdoor community pools are permitted to operate in counties in the yellow and green phases of the Governor's phased-in reopening plan, provided they follow CDC guidance for aquatic venues and the Governor's Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency.

People should not wear cloth face coverings while engaged in activities that may cause the cloth face covering to become wet, like when swimming at the beach or pool. A wet cloth face covering may make it difficult to breathe. For activities like swimming, it is particularly important to maintain physical distance from others when in the water.  People must wear face coverings while out of the water and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others who are not a part of their household.

Q: Is there specific guidance for camping, campgrounds and group camping separate from organized summer camps for youth?

Pennsylvanians should follow guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Q. How do I know which DCNR facilities are open to the public during the various phases of reopening?

Use the DCNR interactive map to identify camping facilities that are open or closed within state parks and forests.