Bring on 2021!

Our 2021 camp plans will implement risk reduction recommendations by the CDC, ACA (American Camp Association), ACN (Association of Camp Nursing) and EH&E (Environmental Health and Engineering Associates) under the direction of the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

A helpful NPR article explaining the national summercamp guidance can be found here. Our blog entry explaining the layers of protection we’re practicing at Camp Ernst can be found here. Here’s a great illustration of the “Swiss Cheese” layers of Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention!

We need camp more now than ever. We are working hard to do all the things we need to do to open camp and keep it open. As always, we will communicate with you with transparency and encourage you to reach out with suggestions, concerns, or questions. or 859-586-6181


All campers and staff will wear masks at designated times.


Each cabin group will remain a distinct cohort, maintaining physical distance from other groups.


Added handwashing and sanitizing stations and increased surface sanitization.


Here are some things we’re planning to make sure summer 2021 is the high quality camp experience you expect from us. These may shift as we march on towards summer, but know that we’re always keeping our camp family’s health and safety as our top priority! We will send “Friday COVID updates” via email to all registered families starting May 14. See “Friday emails” below.

  • Hiring camp counselors who are committed to youth development and upholding our safety standards
  • Meeting with our past summer staff to listen to their ideas and concerns for programming additions and modifications
  • Consulting with an advisory committee of health care professionals to review and assist with implementation of operational guidance
  • Adding staff trainings regarding mental health and COVID-19 anxiety, as well as a plan to support mental health during summercamp
  • Recommending low-risk activities before and after your camp session, pre-camp testing, and vaccinations for those eligible
  • For decades our campers have experienced daily camp programming as the cabin group. This will continue in 2021 with activities planned for each cabin group as a “cohort”
  • Through our experience with our 2020 day camp program, we learned that wearing masks at camp is truly possible—and so we’re ready to mask up in summer 2021 too (when we’re indoors, or outdoors with a group other than our own cabin and can’t maintain distance)
  • Multi-cabin activities/programs will be in open air and utilizing physical distancing
  • Evening programs, typically conducted with 10-20 cabin groups together, will be in smaller groups
  • Program planning will include reducing shared equipment and increasing sanitizing of program supplies
  • We’re planning to still have a blast on the zipline and the rest of the ropes course, plus of course the lake, pools, and creeks!
  • Additional outdoor dining locations, limiting capacity in the dining halls
  • Campers will still eat with their cabin groups as has always been our tradition
  • Breakfasts at the cabin areas and lunch and dinner served to staggered groups, cafeteria style, with alternatives and salad bar options still available!
  • Our screened cabins are well-suited to outdoor air flow. In Lakeview Lodge  added filters and windows open. Most of our activities are already held outdoors in nature.
  • We have kept the capacities at 60%.
  • Hand sanitizing/hand washing stations all around camp, including at the entrance to every cabin
  • Scheduled cleaning and sanitizing of shared spaces around camp
  • Camp leaders will conduct daily health screenings of campers and staff. All participants will be encouraged to monitor their health and participate only in low risk activities prior to their camp session.
  • Our camp nurses and physicians will communicate with parents if symptoms arise and follow strict protocol on responding to symptoms or suspected cases (Symptomatic campers will need to be picked up from camp)
  • Outdoor triage stations for basic first aid
  • For overnight camp, vaccination or negative COVID (viral) test within 3 days of camp check in is recommended
  • Drop off/pick up:  efficient check in and check out for all of our campers while family members stay in the car.
  • Stayover weekends (between two weeks of overnight camp) will be unavailable this summer
  • Even with best practices, we cannot guarantee a COVID-free summer. Please review our cancellation policy here
  • Are the campers going to be sleeping in masks?
    • No. Cabinmates are considered a household, and therefore do not need to mask up while interacting with each other. They will have to be masked when in indoor facilities, except while eating.
  • Will the campers have to wear a mask outside?
    • Not as much as you may think. Check out this chart of when a camper will be masked or not.
    • Day Campers will not wear masks, except when they are sitting in close contact with each other and in the event they need to go indoors.
  • Do Overnight Campers have to provide a negative Covid test?
    • It is not required but recommended that unvaccinated individuals test 1-3 days prior to the arrival to make sure you are not asymptomatic. Here are two great sources about how and where to get a test.


As a mom and a camp professional, I am grateful for our camp families who trust us with the health and safety of their campers every summer. Our camp leadership team, including our camp nurses and INCREDIBLE camp pediatrician Chris Cunha, MD, is excited to welcome back overnight camp in 2021. Thank you in advance for your patience as we  implement the research, local and national guidance on preventing the spread of COVID in camps. We cannot wait to help campers shine their lights back at Camp Ernst. My thought is: “I will do whatever I need to do to get back to operating camp!”

YMCA Camp Ernst Back to Top