It’s been a long, dark and difficult winter and families have spent many hours self-quarantining in their homes. It’s no wonder the thought of safely sending our kids off to summer day camp may seem like a dream, even with the recent availability of vaccines. If an analysis from Duke University is accurate, however, it’s a dream that can come true.

This is not the only study to conclude that the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus isn’t so worrisome among groups of kids — as long as pandemic protocols are strictly followed.

Only 19 cases — 9 children and 10 staff members — of symptomatic disease were found among the 6,830 campers and staffers.

The Duke University study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at data from 54 YMCA day camps around six North Carolina counties between March and August 2020. The camps provided both indoor and outdoor activities: 39 percent offered mostly indoor activities, 38 percent primarily outdoors and 23 percent offered kids activities both indoors and outside.

Pandemic protocol was strictly followed by all the camps including requiring their staff to receive training in Covid-19 reduction strategies. The camps also put symptom screenings into place for staff and children including daily temperature checks, as well as masking, handwashing and sanitizing, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Group sizes were also maintained at no more than 10 campers with social distancing.

Only 19 cases (9 children and 10 staff members) of symptomatic disease were found among the 6,830 campers and staffers. Only two of the cases were traced to campers that might have passed the virus to one another. The other cases were traced to infections outside the day camps. These happy results suggest that children can safely congregate with proper precautions in place.

“Our study suggests that appropriate measures to reduce the spread of disease can create an environment where normal activities, such as day camp, school and after-school recreation can be provided with minimal risk,” Emily D’Agostino, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in Duke’s Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, reported.

There are a couple of limitations to consider when looking at these results. The study's data were collected before the second wave of infections, which was larger and spiked after the holidays. In addition, during the start of the pandemic, people were only tested for COVID-19 when they had symptoms; there may have been asymptomatic infections that weren’t factored into the researchers’ analysis.

Still, these findings support earlier work by Harvard School of Public health researchers that found extremely limited within-school secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and also concluded that COVID-19 transmissions in schools are infrequent.

As the days grow longer, there’s hope for summer fun on the horizon. It might be time to restock those tubes of sunscreen and check to see if your kids still fit into their flip flops and swimsuits for happy times ahead.