The Department of Health Services (DHS) is pleased to support COVID-19 testing in recreational, educational, and day camps. Testing support is subject to the availability of testing supplies and is intended to complement other mitigation efforts. Participation in the program is voluntary and all recreational, educational, and day camps are eligible.
Camps are encouraged to develop their COVID-19 testing plans in partnership with the local and tribal health department in the area in which their camps are located.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations are consistent across youth-focused settings. Camp directors of both day and overnight camps should follow the most recent version of the Operational Guidance for K-12 School and Early Care and Education Programs (ECE) to Support Safe In-Person Learning and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions for K-12 and Early Care and Education (ECE) Settings: Information for School and ECE Administrators, Teachers, Staff, and Parents. They can also access additional resources on the CDC COVID-19 schools landing page, which hosts resources related to testing, Test to Stay, quarantine and isolation, and COVID-19 vaccines.
Free and convenient COVID-19 testing services are available for camps:
- COVID-19 testing is free of charge. COVID-19 testing supplies, specimen transport, diagnostics and reporting are available to camps.
- COVID-19 testing is safe and accurate. Camps can choose to offer laboratory-based testing or point-of-care antigen tests for their campers and staff/volunteers. Both provide reliable results. If camps use antigen tests and provide test results, they must first obtain a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Waiver If using a lab-based molecular test, all tests, transport, test results, and reporting are covered at no cost. Camps may choose the type of tests they will use and develop a testing plan specific to their needs.
Close contact: being within 6 feet of another person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
Asymptomatic: a person who does not report or appear to have any symptoms or signs of illness.
Symptomatic: a person is exhibiting symptoms.
Quarantine: is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others.
Isolation: is used to separate people infected with COVID-19 from those who are not infected.
Molecular test: commonly called a PCR test, is a type of highly accurate diagnostic test that can detect an active COVID-19 infection. Samples for molecular diagnostic tests are typically collected with a nasal swab, or saliva collected by spitting into a tube. Samples are usually sent to a lab for processing.
Antigen test: commonly called a self-test or at-home test, is a type of diagnostic test that can detect an active COVID-19 infection. Samples for diagnostic tests are typically collected with a nasal swab. Results are available in 15-30 minutes. For symptomatic individuals who test negative or asymptomatic individuals who test positive, a confirmatory molecular test is recommended.
Up to date: a person has received all recommended doses in their primary COVID-19 vaccine series, and any booster dose(s) when eligible.
Recreational and educational camps: any overnight camp for children and/or adults where food and lodging are provided with a planned program of recreation or education that is offered free of charge or for payment of a fee by a person, or by the state, or a local unit of government. These camps are licensed through the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
Day camps: a program that provides care and supervision to 4 or more children age 3 and older in a seasonal program oriented to the outdoors for less than 24 hours a day.
Key reasons to test in camps
- Testing in camps is recommended for all campers, volunteers, and staff that develop symptoms and are close contacts.
- Testing helps reduce community spread and keeps camps operating safely. Testing individuals who are symptomatic or close contacts helps enable rapid detection of cases to reduce or prevent camp outbreaks. A routine screening testing program, which regularly tests people without symptoms or known exposures, is a crucial tool to reduce “silent” spread of the virus. Infections can be contracted from someone who is asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (not currently showing symptoms but may develop them in the future). Testing also helps protect children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and helps determine when fully vaccinated individuals with COVID-19 symptoms can return to camp.
- Testing in camps helps ensure convenient and equitable access. Camps can help make testing a trusted, convenient, and reliable part of the community’s prevention strategy on a schedule that works for campers, volunteers, and staff without requiring extra appointments or transportation.
- Testing increases confidence in a camp’s ability to operate safely. Campers, parents/guardians, and staff may be anxious about attending in-person activities without knowing whether they may be exposed to infection by others. Strong testing programs can help build confidence. Access to a COVID-19 test can help calm concerns about camp safety.
Who can be tested?
Campers, volunteers, and staff can be tested through this program. Written consent from a parent or guardian must be obtained prior to testing minors.
When should testing be performed in a camp setting?
Through this program, COVID-19 testing can be performed to:
- Perform screening tests for admission or on exit, including routine asymptomatic testing during the housing process or testing all campers being provided services.
- To test symptomatic individuals.
- To test close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Prevent outbreaks at the camp. All close contacts of a person who tested positive should be tested; ideally testing would be conducted facility-wide.
Should overnight camps perform COVID-19 testing?
- At all COVID-19 Community Levels, overnight camps should use diagnostic testing for people with symptoms of COVID-19 or for people who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19. This can be done through the use of point-of-care, at-home, or laboratory-based testing.
- Additionally, camps can consider implementing screening testing when the COVID-19 Community Levels are medium and high, as outlined in the K-12/ECE guidance. At all COVID-19 Community Levels, overnight camps can consider implementing screening testing for:
- Pre-arrival screening.
- Hosting campers from abroad or from regions with varying COVID-19 Community Levels.
- For overnight camps serving vulnerable campers (such as those with complex medical conditions.)
Determine the right test for your camp
Testing supplies are available through the DHS COVID-19 testing supplies website. Camps have the option to order and use testing supplies that best meet their needs for campers, staff, and volunteers, including antigen point of care tests and highly accurate lab-based tests. For more information on ordering supplies, please email WICOVIDTEST@wisconsin.gov.
Highly accurate, lab-based molecular tests
Laboratory-based molecular tests, commonly referred to as PCR tests, are the gold standard tests. Conducted in a specialized environment by trained professionals, these tests are the most accurate tests available. These shelf-stable supplies must be return-shipped or couriered to a laboratory for resulting. Test results are usually available in 24-48 hours. The laboratory has all required certificates and handles reporting for the camp.
Antigen point-of-care tests
Antigen point-of-care tests are available for use in camps and provide results in 15-20 minutes. Antigen point-of-care tests are the most accurate for individuals with symptoms. Confirmatory molecular testing is recommended (but not required) for asymptomatic people who test positive and symptomatic people who test negative.
Preparing for COVID-19 testing step-by-step instructions
- Obtain a CLIA Certificate of Waiver (only for antigen point-of-care tests): When ordering point-of-care antigen tests from DHS, you will need to submit your CLIA Certificate of Waiver number. To obtain a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Certificate of Waiver, you will need to submit a completed application to email@example.com.
- Partner with a clinician: All COVID-19 testing sponsored by this program needs to occur under the authority of a clinician with prescribing authority (MD, DO, PA, or NP). If you do not have a local clinician who manages your camp’s health services, you can complete the attestation form and submit to WICOVIDTEST@Wisconsin.gov This will allow you to conduct testing under the statewide standing order for COVID-19 tests prescribed by the Wisconsin DHS chief medical officer.
- Submit a request for testing supplies:
- Visit Order free DHS testing supplies
- Select “Other Organizations.”
- Input the reason for testing in the “Testing Plan” section.
- Select “Camps” in the facility type.
- To receive lab-based molecular tests in the "PCR Testing Supplies" section, enter the name of the clinical laboratory that you have been paired with (Example: Exact, Mako, Accelerated).
- Note: If you have not been paired with a lab, please state in the "Note" section that you need to be paired with a lab.
- To order both point-of-care antigen and lab-based molecular tests, complete both the PCR Testing Supplies and Antigen Testing Supplies sections.
- Note: This option is for facilities paired with EXACT ONLY. Facilities not paired with EXACT need to place separate orders for antigen and PCR testing supplies.
- Complete training: Any staff who will administer COVID-19 testing at your camp must complete training to assure they are using the tests safely and effectively.
- Performing and Reporting Point-of-Care Antigen Tests in Camps
- Point-of-care antigen testing does not allow for a self-collection option.
- Performing and Reporting PCR test in Camps
Set up an account with the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene to report results. COVID-19 is a Category I reportable condition in Wisconsin. As such, test results must be reported to the State of Wisconsin and to federal authorities (Department of Health and Human Services). To report results, set up an account.If you have questions about ordering testing supplies or the camp testing program in general, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources to learn more
- CDC Frequently Asked Questions for Directors of Overnight Camps
- CDC Operational Guidance for K-12 School and Early Care and Education Programs to Support Safe In-Person Learning
- Frequently Asked Questions for K-12 and ECE Settings: Information for School and ECE Administrators, Teachers, Staff, and Parents
- The Association of Camp Nursing Coronavirus COVID-19 Considerations for Camps
- K-12 School Testing Program
- Toolkit for People with Disabilities
Frequently asked questions by category
- Where can I find out additional information about testing in camps? If camps have specific questions on the testing program, email email@example.com.
- Is it mandatory for camps to test campers and staff? No, participation in the testing program is voluntary.
- Will the program offer camps funding for additional staff in order to conduct testing? No. Direct funding to pay staff is currently not covered under this program.
- Is the cost associated with biohazard waste disposal covered under this program? No. The cost of biohazard waste disposal is not covered under this program. Camps are responsible for safely disposing of waste. For additional information, see CDC Waste Management Guidelines for SARS-CoV-2 Point of care Testing.
- When does a camp need a CLIA Certificate of Waiver? For a camp to conduct point-of-care tests (like COVID-19 point-of-care antigen tests or diabetic glucose checks), the camp must apply for and receive a CLIA Certificate of Waiver. Camps may not conduct testing until the certificate of waiver has been approved. A camp does not need a certificate of waiver if they collaborate with another entity willing to conduct testing at the camp under that entity’s CLIA Certificate of Waiver or if the camp is not conducting point of care tests.
- What responsibilities must a camp fulfill as an organization with a CLIA waiver? Any organization with a CLIA Certificate of Waiver is responsible for the safety and effectiveness of services they provide. For camps conducting COVID-19 point-of-care testing, this includes staff training, effective infection control practices, and reporting infectious disease test results to the State of Wisconsin and to the federal authorities (HHS). Guidance about how to set up an account and report COVID-19 point-of-care test results is available from the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene. If a camp coordinates with a testing partner or is providing lab-based molecular tests (not point-of-care tests), then the laboratory will assume the responsibility for the safety and effectiveness of testing – including responsibility for reporting test results on the camp’s behalf.
- If a camp uses another company to conduct point-of-care antigen testing, does the camp still need to obtain a CLIA Certificate of Waiver? No. If the camp partners with an entity to come to their camp to swab and result the point-of-care antigen test, then the camp does not need to obtain their own CLIA certificate of Waiver. All testing would occur under the external entity’s CLIA certificate. The camp should verify that the external entity conducting the test has a valid CLIA Certificate of Waiver. To find out if an entity has a valid CLIA Certificate of Waiver, request the CLIA number from the testing partner and verify it by checking the CDC CLIA Laboratory Search website or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All entities ordering point-of-care antigen test supplies from DHS are required to provide their CLIA number when placing their orders.
- How does a camp apply for a CLIA Certificate of Waiver? To apply to receive a CLIA Certificate of Waiver, the camp must fill out the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) application form CMS-116 CLIA Application and submit it to the State of Wisconsin CLIA Section at email@example.com. Once approved, CMS will assign a CLIA number and send a letter or email of confirmation to the camp. For more information on CLIA certification, reference the CMS Laboratory Quick Start Guide.
- How long does it take to process the CLIA Certificate of Waiver? Once a camp submits an accurate and complete application, the Wisconsin State Agency usually processes the Certificate of Waiver in one week or less. Once approved, the camp will be assigned a Federal CLIA number and may begin testing. Provide this CLIA number to DHS when ordering testing supplies.
- Is there a fee associated with applying for a CLIA Certificate of Waiver? Yes. An entity is required to pay $180.00 to CMS. CMS will send an invoice to the camp, and you may submit payment to CMS directly or pay online at Pay.Gov.
- Does the CLIA Certificate of Waiver expire? The CLIA Certificate of Waiver is good for two years. CMS will send a renewal invoice 6 months prior to the expiration date of the certificate.
- The CLIA application asks to identify the "director" of the laboratory. Can this be anyone in the camp? The camp may list any employee as the director on the CLIA Application. It is recommended that the director is an individual who is or who will become knowledgeable about the requirements for maintaining the CLIA Certificate of Waiver and the camp’s testing operations, including testing and safety protocols, staff training, and reporting of test results. Examples may include: the camp nurse, a health aide, or a camp administrator overseeing the health or testing program.
- Would a camp organization with multiple campgrounds/programs need to have a waiver for each campground/program, or one for the whole organization? Generally, a camp organization with multiple campgrounds/programs may apply for one certificate of waiver to cover all campgrounds/programs under their organization. The camp organization must identify that the application supports multiple sites and identify each campground/program and address separately on the CLIA application.
- If a camp has multiple programs located at the same address, should the camp fill out the application as having multiple sites? No. If all programs are located at the same address, the camp may apply as a single location site.
- What other information will the application request? The application requires the camp to provide its Tax ID number. The application also requires the camp to estimate the number of tests it plans to conduct. This can be a general estimate based on the number of staff and campers in your program(s).
- How can a camp verify whether they already hold a CLIA certificate? To verify whether an entity has a valid CLIA Certificate of Waiver, check https://www.cdc.gov/clia/LabSearch.html or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Who do I contact if I have additional questions about the CLIA Certificate of Waiver process? For any questions about the CLIA Certificate of Waiver and process, email the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Quality Assurance at email@example.com.
- Who at my camp is allowed to collect the specimen for a COVID-19 test? Does it have to be a nurse? Any staff member who is properly trained is allowed to collect the specimen and result the point-of care antigen test. Training may be accessed through many venues, including from a trained clinician (a healthcare provider) or through the test manufacturer’s materials. If you need assistance finding these vendor materials, email WICOVIDTEST@Wisconsin.gov.
- Does a camp need to have access to lab-based molecular tests? All camps conducting point-of-care testing under DHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Westergaard's statewide standing order (including COVID-19 point-of-care antigen tests) must assure compliance with the DHS and CDC recommendation for providing follow-up testing to confirm some antigen results. Lab-based molecular tests are recommended for this follow-up testing. Camps can order and provide these follow-up, confirmatory tests, or refer campers and staff to follow-up:
- How should camps prepare to test campers and staff on site? Camps interested in offering onsite testing will need to assure the following:
- That the testing program works for their camp community’s needs.
- That staff and campers (and their guardians) know about and understand the testing program and processes because the camp has:
- Obtained guardian consent.
- Developed a process for notifying individuals of their results.
- Provided the staff and supplies necessary to conduct testing, including personal protective equipment (PPE), tables, cleaning supplies, etc.
Camps will also need to provide space to isolate campers with symptoms and who test positive while they wait for pick-up, develop processes for sending them home as soon as possible, and offer instructions to access follow-up testing when needed.
- When should an individual be referred for follow-up lab-based molecular testing? Follow-up confirmatory molecular testing is recommended for individuals who are symptomatic and test negative using a point-of-care antigen test. Confirmatory testing should be conducted as soon as possible after the antigen test and within 48 hours. For a simple guide on when to retest, see COVID-19 Antigen Testing: When is it Best to Retest? Additional guidance for the use of antigen testing is located in a point-of-care antigen test memo.
- Does a camp participating in this state-sponsored program need an order signed by a medical provider to do testing? Yes, COVID-19 testing sponsored by this program needs to occur under the authority of a medical provider. A camp may obtain a written order through a clinician with prescribing authority (MD, DO, PA, or NP), or opt to use a standing order issued by Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for DHS. If a camp chooses to use Dr. Westergaard’s standing order, they must sign an attestation form agreeing to follow the requirements of the order.
- Do you have a standard testing consent form we can utilize? A consent form should be signed prior to testing campers and staff. Template consent forms are available on the DPI COVID-19 School Health Services webpage. School consent forms can be modified for the purpose of testing in camps.