Camp & COVID-19 (Updated 5/29/2022)
Friends, we know that everyone is a bit “COVID tired.” We are no different! Our biggest hope is to have the most normal summer possible while ensuring a safe environment for our campers and staff and complying with all relevant public health guidance. This makes for a careful balancing act.
Our most important job (and highest priority in every element of camp planning) is to keep our camp family safe. But unlike a family of 4 or 5, we have a family of 550! And unlike school, those 550 people live together in one big community. This means that we have to be very thoughtful and intentional about how we approach COVID safety planning.
Our safety plan has three primary components:
- Creating a Bubble: We will keep COVID out to the extent possible through appropriate screening and double-testing prior to the summer, with the ultimate goal of creating a bubble in the camp community.
- Limiting the Spread of Germs: To limit the spread of germs within camp, we will regularly clean and sanitize the facility, require frequent handwashing, maintain camp families/pods for the first five days of camp, and wear masks in those first five days when pods are indoors with other pods.
- Reacting Appropriately: If a camper or staff member tests positive for COVID, then they will quarantine until symptoms resolve before rejoining the community.
DISCUSSION OF STRATEGIES
Screening, Testing, and Creating a Bubble
A key part of our safety plan involves creating a bubble in the camp community. This means that every camper and staff member must arrange for a PCR COVID test within three days of arrival to camp, and bring the result with them to enter the facility. On opening day they will receive a COVID test at the entrance of our facility before entering camp.
Every person who enters the facility, such as our food delivery drivers, will also answer screening questions and receive a temperature check prior to being allowed in.
Moreover, our staff will stay on camp for their days off this summer. Of course, they will have time off as they always do, but their time off will be spent in camp rather than outside of the camp community. This will ensure the integrity of our camp bubble throughout the summer.
This summer, each bunk will be its own household/pod for the first five days of camp, until everybody (hopefully!) tests negative on day five. Once we get negative test results all around, the pods will expand and camp will feel much like it always does.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
We will have enhanced cleaning and sanitizing around the camp facility throughout the summer. High-touch surfaces will be cleaned frequently throughout the day, and all parts of the facility will be disinfected regularly using EPA-approved disinfectants.
We will also eliminate high-touch surfaces when possible. This means doors will be propped, garbage cans will be foot-actuated or lid-free, and water fountains will be turned off. Athletic and other shared equipment will either travel with each camp family or be fully disinfected between each family’s use.
Safety at Meals
Like the summer of 2021, we’ll have tents to enable us to separate tables in the dining room and ensure adequate distancing between pods. We will also have our dining room ventilation running at all times and windows and doors open at all times. During the first five days, campers will wear masks in the dining room unless they’re eating. Once we (hopefully!) have all negative tests on day five, we’ll revisit this.
All campers and staff will follow a number of key hygiene rules, on which everybody will be trained before and during the summer. These include the following:
- Campers and staff will frequently wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds each time.
- Campers and staff will frequently use hand sanitizer between handwashings. Sanitizer stations will be available around camp.
- Campers and staff will cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw out the tissue immediately after use, and then wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Campers and staff will maintain appropriate distance from others who are not in their pod during the first five days.
- Campers and staff will avoid touching frequently-touched surfaces such as handles, doorknobs, tables, and counters whenever possible.
- Campers and staff will not share clothing or other personal items.
- Campers and staff will immediately let their counselor or supervisor know if they feel sick.
- For the first five days, campers and staff will wear masks whenever they are around people outside of their pod.
Travel to Camp
All campers will be driven to camp this summer. We will not be able to offer buses so that we can maintain distinct camp families/pods by bunk and not mix together large groups of kids. For campers who typically fly in, they must be vigilant in mask-wearing, social distancing, and good hygiene during their travels. The only airlines that should be used are those that maintain significant distance between passengers.
Will camp be a bubble this summer?
We’re sure there’s a camp song that’s yet to be written about living in a bubble… Anyway… Yes! As much as possible, we’ll make sure camp is a bubble this summer. We plan to test everyone from home before they come to camp and then again when they arrive to camp. We will also test everyone five days into camp. We won’t have anyone coming or going from camp this summer, so we can attempt to make sure that we’re a happy, self-contained, and COVID-safe community.
We read the tests aren’t flawless…
Well, that’s certainly true. Tests are a huge help to opening safely, but they can’t be the only thing we do to open safely.
…And that’s where pods come in?
Yes! We’re sure there’s a song to be written here too… Each bunk will be its own household/pod this summer. Bunk life will be the way it always has been: 12-14 bestest friends will sing songs together, have gaga pit showdowns, work on art projects, and have all the usual bunk bonding and fun. What will be a little different this summer is that we won’t have mixing between bunks the way we normally do, until everyone tests negative (we hope!) on day five.
Will campers still have choice?
Absolutely! While we won’t have individual electives when camp starts, our bunks will have bunk choice activities where campers will decide together what to focus on. And also, the pods might get BIGGER…
The pods might get bigger?
We will administer a COVID test on the fifth day of camp. Assuming all tests come back negative, our pods will expand. That will allow campers to choose electives and engage with kids outside of their bunk once we get past the first week of each session.
Will campers wear masks?
Campers will not wear masks when they’re in their bunks with their pods, or when doing outdoor activities with their bunkmates. And we’re shifting as many activities as possible outside this summer! That means lots of new open air tents. During the first five days of camp, campers will wear masks if they’re indoors, near campers or staff from other bunks, and at certain other times. We hope that no masks will be needed after our day five COVID tests come back.
What will meals look like?
We know our food is a highlight of camp for so many campers and staff! We will still have the amazing menu that we always offer with a huge variety of options. Our Executive Manager, Laurie, has been creating delicious menus all year and can’t wait to wow the campers with her gourmet creations. To keep everything safe, we’ll be using tents and spreading tables far apart. We anticipate having our normal self-serve buffets.
Hmmm, so this means no buses this summer, huh?
Yes, that’s right. Since buses mean many different campers from different bunks mixing together in close proximity, we can’t have buses this summer. That means campers who normally take the bus will need to be driven to camp. Click here for more info about buses.
How will the bubble work for staff?
This summer, nobody will be coming and going from camp like usual. For example, that means that our amazing staff will stay on camp for their time off. They’ll have a weekly day off and night off like they do every summer. The only difference is that they’ll spend that time at camp. We will also have an extra-long staff orientation so we can establish a bubble before the first camper even arrives to camp. Of course, staff will be double tested before arrival just like the campers and we’re testing everyone again five days into staff orientation.
Will campers have to quarantine before camp starts? How about staff?
We will not be requiring families to quarantine at home prior to camp as long as they are driving to us and coming from a domestic location. A mandatory quarantine is not practical with so many families who have school and work obligations that wouldn’t allow them to stay home for 10 days. Our staff will have a strict in-camp quarantine coupled with multiple tests before the campers arrive to ensure that we have established a bubble before the first camper steps foot into camp.
Will siblings see each other during camp?
Yes, absolutely! Siblings will be able to see each other and will social distance during their visits during the first five days of camp, until we get the results back from our day five COVID tests. They’ll just save their hugs until day six and onwards!
What happens if a camper tests positive for COVID?
We hope everyone will test negative! But let’s consider what happens if a camper tests positive…
If a camper tests positive from home, then they will stay home for the CDC isolation/quarantine period. If a camper tests positive on opening day, then the camper will go home before coming into camp for the CDC isolation/quarantine period.
During the first week of camp, each bunk will be its own pod. We will test everyone again on day five of camp. If everyone tests negative on day five (knock on wood!), then it suggests that we successfully established our bubble. That means masks can come off, pods can expand, and camp will feel much more like any other typical summer.
Things get a little trickier if a camper tests negative from home, negative on opening day, and positive on the day five test at camp. Indeed, we had this very experience in the summer of 2021. We know that testing isn’t flawless, and that’s exactly why we have multiple tests. We know and have experience that a camper can test negative from home, negative on opening day, and positive on day five.
If we have a positive case in a particular bunk on the day five test, then we will follow the advice of our medical team, external public health consultants, and all relevant regulations and guidance regarding the appropriate response. Simply put, the positive camper will likely be moved to separate housing (with other campers who test positive) and the rest of the bunk will likely quarantine together in camp and rejoin the general population following the CDC quarantine period.
There’s a chance we will need to ask the positive camper and contacts to go home, but we are hoping that won’t be necessary. Based on the current state of the pandemic, we are more inclined to allow an in-camp isolation/quarantine for an entire bunk than we were in the summer of 2021 — this is because COVID cases are becoming milder with new variants and we are more experienced in maintaining the integrity of each pod within camp. However, depending on the relevant public health regulations and guidance, and the advice of our public health consultants and medical team, we may decide to send the bunk home like we did in 2021.
With all that said, we’re hoping that our pre-camp and opening day screening will prevent this outcome entirely so COVID never makes its way into camp!
What happens if a camper or staff member tests positive more than ten days before camp starts but then continues to test positive on PCR?
If a camper or staff member had COVID recently before their arrival to camp, then they should provide camp with formal verification that they had COVID and the date on which they tested positive, either by submitting a positive test result from a lab or sending a note from a doctor.
Since a PCR test may come back positive following a recent infection, the following approach should be taken in the lead-up to camp: Please take a test using a home rapid antigen test 10 days before camp. If that test is positive, then please take a picture of it and send it to camp. The camper or staff member can then come to camp 10 days after the positive rapid test from home.
If the rapid test from home is negative, then please test again 8 days days before camp and again 6 days before camp using a rapid test both times. If those tests are negative, then please proceed with the PCR test like all others arriving to camp. If the home rapid tests or PCR test is positive, then the camp’s medical team will discuss the right approach on a case-by-case basis based on the specific facts presented.
Does Camp Zeke require the COVID vaccine?
The vaccine is mandatory for all staff and strongly encouraged for call campers, in accordance with CDC guidance. Please visit the following link for our COVID vaccine policy.
Where can we see the full COVID Safety Manual?
Here is a link to our COVID Safety Manual.