By SEAN SANDERS and JILIAN FAMA HALSEY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — As students across the country return to school amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new study has powerful takeaways for mitigating COVID-19 outbreaks, citing the success of four summer camps in Maine.
The federal study, released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at four sleepaway camps and the measures they took to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the virus caused by the novel coronavirus, among more than 1,000 campers and staff members from June to August.
The camps’ success, according to the CDC, came from several protocols, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine prior to the start of camp, frequent cleaning of camp facilities, mandatory mask protocols and maximizing outdoor space.
“We call them layers of mitigation,” Patty Lifter, the director of Camp Pinecliffe, a camp for girls in Harrison, Maine, and one of the camps featured in the CDC study, told “Good Morning America.” “It wasn’t one thing that was going to keep everybody safe.”
The camp also instituted another practice highlighted in the CDC study as a measure of success, having campers quarantine in pods for the first two weeks of camp.
At Camp Pinecliffe, they called the pods the “campers’ neighborhoods,” or “families.”
“We decided to call their bunk or their cabin, their family,” said Lifter. “And when you’re with your family, you don’t need to be masked and you can talk with your family and be with your family.”
The success of Camp Pinecliffe and the three other camps in Maine stand in contrast to a summer camp in Georgia, YMCA Camp High Harbour, that quickly shut down for the summer in late June after a teen staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
In that case, campers were not required to wear face masks. The CDC found that “daily vigorous singing and cheering” may have helped lead to the spread of COVID-19, and that windows and doors at the camp were not left open for better ventilation.
Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician in Maine and the lead author of the CDC study, believes the multi-step approach taken by the camps in her home state helped to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
She also believes this multi-step approach can be used to limit the spread of the virus in schools.
“Camps and schools are not the same,” she told GMA. “But what this study adds is that if one is diligent about multi-layering, public health interventions, COVID-19 and the spread of COVID-19 can be mitigated.”
Blaisdell shared these three tips as best practices learned from the summer camps in Maine.
1. Diligence and consistency:
“It’s masking everybody. It’s maintaining distance at all time,” said Blaisdell.
2. Layered safety protocols:
“It’s the layering of all these public health layers, masking, distancing, ventilation, screening, that allows us to see the strength and the robust nature in preventing communicable disease,” she said.
3. A culture of compliance:
“Going to schools or camps or colleges is a privilege this year and we need to take care of one another and do what we can,” said Blaisdell.
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