County health officials speak out on summer camps amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sending kids off to camp can be a little stressful for parents, and maybe even more so this year with COVID-19 in the mix.

The CDC has guidelines for both day camps and overnight camps, and on Wednesday, officials with the Maricopa County Department of Health say parents should do their research because summer camp, like everything, has changed.

County officials say day camps and overnight camps should follow CDC guidelines.

"The advantage of the overnight camp is that it is more of a closed-off, so you have less individuals interacting outside the camp. In some ways, that's safer," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine.

Dr. Sunenshine says the challenge is that campers will be sharing a cabin and sleeping overnight.

"The main recommendation for that is you want to have people sleeping head to foot, so if droplets do come out, it hits someone's feet rather than their head," said Dr. Sunenshine.

Another option is to use plexiglass barriers in between bunks.

Also important is how to prepare kids.

"First is follow all the rules the camp puts forward," said Dr. Sunenshine. "If they ask you to have the child stay home during the two weeks before the child attends camp, follow those rules."

The other important thing is hand sanitizer, says the doctor. Send plenty with your child, and emphasize the importance of using it often, along with handwashing.

As for masks, CDC officials say staff should wear them and campers as well, when feasible.

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Additional resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ (In Spanish/En Español)

Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars (In Spanish/En Español)

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