DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The state plans to give COVID-19 rapid tests to youth summers camps this year to quickly identify any positive cases among campers and staff.
Governor Greg Abbott urged camps to apply for the program to help stop the spread of the virus.READ MORE: Hundreds Of Teen Immigrant Girls Moved From Houston Facility
The announcement comes at a time when demand for summer camps is higher than ever.
“For this year, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Steve Baskin, the executive director of Camp Champions, a sleep-away camp in central Texas. “Parents want to send their kids to camp.”
Baskin says the camp didn’t have a single COVID-19 case last summer, which gives him even more confidence they can keep campers and counselors safe again this year.
“You know it’s going to be hard, but you know you can do it having done it once,” he said. “We are going to continue to have kids in different cohorts to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination. We’ll eat in shifts. We’ll have no parents leaving their cars at opening and closings. We’ll mask when appropriate, like shouting and screaming, which you do sometimes at camp.”
COVID testing four days before camp starts will be mandatory as well.
Baskin plans to look into Governor Abbott’s new program for potential on-site testing.
He applauds the move.READ MORE: SpaceX Wins $2.9 Billion NASA Contract For Lunar Lander Being Developed In Texas
“Not all camps can afford tests,” Baskin said. “Being able to have a testing protocol that’s available to every camp, regardless of what population they serve, is I think a wonderful step in the right direction.”
The state will provide qualifying summer camps with rapid antigen tests to help stop potential outbreaks.
“I do believe that there will be benefits to those for other camps,” said Courtney Evans, administrative director of Camp Anothen, a summer day camp in Mansfield. “I think that our biggest thing is we are not an overnight camp and kids do not stay in close quarters.”
Evans doesn’t think the rapid tests will be necessary for their operation, but she says the camp will continue with other safety protocols like daily temperature checks.
“We take it very seriously given we do not want an outbreak at camp,” she said. “I think that it’s just an exciting opportunity for these kids to get out of their house.”
After a year unlike any other, directors say kid need summer camp more than ever.
“Kids need to be outside,” Baskin said. “They need to connect with other human beings. They need to be tech-free and happy – and parents are getting it.”MORE NEWS: NorthPark Center In Dallas Evacuated Due To Water Main Leak
A new study from the American Camp Association looked at data from nearly 500 camps in 2020 and found 102 total positive COVID-19 cases, which is less than one percent of campers and camp staff.