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Texas will provide state-licensed summer camps with COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in an effort to prevent potential outbreaks, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Tuesday.
Last summer, most summer camps were shuttered across the country because of the pandemic. A spokesperson for the American Camp Association said more than 20 million children in the U.S. who normally would go to summer camp did not go last year because of closures.
The tests will be voluntary for both staff and campers. Summer camp organizers need to apply to participate.
"As normalcy returns to Texas, we must remain vigilant against the spread of COVID-19 by identifying positive cases and mitigating any potential outbreaks," Abbott said in the statement. "I encourage qualifying summer camps to apply for this program so that we can continue to keep Texans safe."
This comes after Texas ended most of its coronavirus-related restrictions earlier this month.
Texas has a series of health recommendations, revised this month, for summer camp operators, including social distancing rules, prohibiting visits from parents or guardians except to pick up or drop off children, and separating campers and staff into smaller cohorts that do not mix for the duration of the camp. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says summer camps can reopen safely if they follow certain protocols.
Staff members or campers who test positive should be isolated immediately and then removed from the camp, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Parents are told to pick up their children within eight hours if kids become infected.
Many parents across Texas rely on day camps for child care while school is out for summer break.
"It's really important because you can't just let your kids stay at home unsupervised all day long unless you just want them to melt into a screen all day long, which they will," said Dr. Katie Simon, a mom and Austin neonatologist.
Simon said she and her husband — both full-time physicians — count on summer camps for their children while school is out.
However, she said the rapid antigen tests aren't always accurate, and she would not put her trust solely in them.
The rapid tests are less sensitive than polymerase chain reaction tests at detecting cases of the coronavirus, which means they could return false negatives, according to the CDC. Children, who are largely asymptomatic when positive with COVID-19, can pose a particular risk for spread to others. And a rare condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome appears to affect some children after they are exposed to COVID-19.