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Michigan COVID-19 Guidelines for Safely Running a Day Camp in the Summer of 2020

According to the American Camp Association, more than 14 million children attend summer camps across the country every year. Michigan has a long summer-camp tradition, with kids flocking to camp destinations throughout the state to swim, hike, and roast marshmallows […]

According to the American Camp Association, more than 14 million children attend summer camps across the country every year. Michigan has a long summer-camp tradition, with kids flocking to camp destinations throughout the state to swim, hike, and roast marshmallows around the campfire. Until recently, summer camp in Michigan was in doubt, another potential casualty of the COVID-19 crisis. However, with the case curve continuing to flatten, and more businesses across the state reopening, Governor Whitmer announced that summer day camps in Michigan would be allowed to open — subject to a number of health and safety guidelines.

Executive Order 2020-110, issued on June, 1, 2020, provides that day camps for children are allowed to operate as of June 8, 2020, subject to guidance issued by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (“LARA”). On June 2, 2020, LARA issued its “Guidelines for Safe Day Camp Operations During COVID-19 (“LARA Guidance”),” which offers considerations and actions that camp operators must take before opening for the season. The various recommendations and requirements of the LARA Guidance are extensive and should be closely reviewed with legal counsel. What is clear is that it will not be carefree “camp-as-usual” in Michigan, but at least camps now have the guidance they need to get up and running for summer.

COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan

Like other businesses conducting in-person work in Michigan, camps must establish a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan. According to the LARA Guidance, a response plan must be available at your camp or camp headquarters, be made available to families and staff, and be part of a camp’s health service policy and meet applicable camp licensing rules.

A plan should include:

  • How a camp will monitor for symptoms of COVID-19
  • How a camp’s programs practice social distancing, as developmentally appropriate
  • How a camp will ensure hygiene (including regular cleaning and disinfecting)
  • How a camp will obtain and use safety equipment
  • Communication and training for staff, parents, and campers related to new
  • Isolation procedures in the event of symptoms or confirmed cases onsite
  • How a camp will maintain required staff-to-camper ratios in the event of staff illness

While preparedness and response plans may be subject to review by a LARA licensing consultant, they do not need to be submitted to LARA for approval. LARA strongly recommends that camps (i) discuss plans with staff from the local health department so that all roles and responsibilities are clarified and updated contact information is included, and (ii) that the local health department be provided with a final version of a response plan.

Communication and Training

The LARA Guidance urges camps to engage in proactive communication and training of employees, including discussing any concerns staff members have about returning to work, and sharing steps being taken, including those outlined in a preparedness and response plan, to make camp as safe as possible.

Camps should establish a staffing plan based on a camp’s projected enrollment, the need (based on “strongly recommended” guidance”) to maintain groups of fewer than 10 campers, and the importance of maintaining physical distancing. Staff members should also be trained on the various protocols and procedures of a camp’s preparedness and response plan.

The LARA Guidance also acknowledges that campers and staff, alike, may be impacted emotionally by the return to a social, structured environment like camp, and that plans should be put in place to support their emotional needs. Camps should also proactively communicate with families in order to address concerns, explain health and safety procedures, and help prepare kids for what, for some, may be a difficult transition to the camp environment after months of isolation.

Health Screening for COVID-19

One of the most important and challenging aspects of running a camp this summer will be adhering to health screening protocols. Pursuant to the LARA Guidance, camps are required to check for COVID-19 symptoms when campers and staff arrive daily. While there is no mandated health screening process, the LARA Guidance suggests that camps adopt screening practices including:

  • Daily temperature checks for campers
  • Visual checks for signs of illness
  • Asking campers and parents about contact with COVID-19-positive individuals and general health questions
  • Continuing to monitor campers for symptoms throughout the day and monitor
    temperatures when campers appear ill or “not themselves”
  • Conducting similar daily health screening for staff members

For additional guidance, the CDC offers tips on how to practically conduct health screening checks.

Response to Possible or Confirmed Cases of COVID-19

Beyond screening for illness, camps must respond in accordance with LARA Guidance to the extent a COVID-19 case is suspected or confirmed, including:

  • Identifying a point of contact adult onsite during the camp operation to manage health-related concerns, and ensure that camp staff and families know who this person is and how to contact them
  • Monitoring the health of staff and campers throughout the day
  • Immediately sending home someone who becomes ill
  • To the extent someone becomes sick with COVID-19 symptoms, calling the local health department to report exposure and determine whether those who have been in close contact need to leave camp
  • Reporting exposure that occurs outside of camp to the local health department
  • Determining whether to close the camp based on guidance from the local health department

Camps Must be Vigilant this Summer

Running a day camp in Michigan is never easy, and this summer it will be even harder. This article has addressed a few of the key provisions in the LARA Guidance, but camp operators should carefully review the full extent of the guidance, as well as Governor Whitmer’s various executive orders that impact camp operations. From additional legal and regulatory to compliance requirements, to mandated health screening and safety protocols, there is a great deal of complexity that camps need to review and understand in order to run their operations safely and compliantly. To the extent that you have any questions or concerns, or require assistance in the creation of a preparedness and response plan, please contact Mark Kellogg.

We have created a response team to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and the law and guidance that follows, so we will continue to post any new developments. You can view our COVID-19 Response Page and additional resources by following the link here. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Mark E. Kellogg is a certified public accountant, and has devoted over 30 years of practice to the needs of family and closely-held businesses and enterprises, business succession, commercial lending, and estate planning. You can reach him at 517.377.0890 or