This past year has been more challenging and uncertain than anyone could have predicted. Camp is a place where people are able to connect deeply with each other, push themselves to try new things, and just have fun together, and I believe that camp has never been more vital in the lives of our campers and their families.
We are confident that we will be able to provide our campers with a summer that is healthy and safe. We also understand that all the confidence in the world will not keep the COVID-19 virus out of our community, so we will need to put measures in place in order to protect our campers and staff. We know that all of these changes are also chances to grow and we are fully embracing those opportunities. We have been learning from organizations like the American Camp Association (ACA) and the CDC, along with our fellow camp professionals, and we wanted to update you on how we are planning to keep our camp community healthy this summer.
Please keep in mind that the COVID-19 situation is ever-evolving. This is the best information we have to share at this time, and anything that is written here is subject to change in response to future developments of the pandemic including specific guidelines from our local health department. We will keep you up to date as to our plans and procedures in the time leading up to camp this summer.
Our main strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19 at camp will be layers of non-pharmaceutical interventions, or NPIs. These include but are not limited to masks, social distancing, hand-washing, sanitizing, testing, utilizing outdoor spaces, and contact tracing. We have learned from camps that ran safely in 2020 that consistent and diligent employment of NPIs were successful in keeping campers and staff healthy. Below, we will detail our current plans for how NPIs will be present at camp.
1. Activities - We believe that we will be able to offer just about all of our beloved camp activities and programs. Campers may have to do them in smaller groups than they are used to, or do more programming outside. Campers will still be able to play their favorite games, learn from experienced educators, and engage with the creative and immersive programs that their counselors provide. Big, communal events like our Shabbat celebration and Maccabiah/Pioneer Day may look different, but will retain their essence of joy and community.
2. Pods - We are planning to operate camp on a pod system. At the beginning of each session, campers will move through their day in their cabin groups. After a quarantine period, we are hopeful that we can expand pod sizes and introduce more choice-based programming. Currently, we believe we will still be able to have camp-wide communal moments, with pods spaced appropriately.
3. Masks - We anticipate that campers will need to wear masks if they are mixing with another pod. When campers are doing activities strictly with their own pod, it is unlikely that they will need to wear a mask. Campers will not need to wear masks in their immediate living area.
4. Hand-washing and Sanitizing - We will build time into the daily schedule dedicated to hand-washing in order to minimize potential exposure. We will also be sanitizing any shared equipment and spaces between uses.
5. Testing - It is possible campers may need to provide a record of a negative test on arrival, and/or that campers will be tested on arrival. It is also likely that campers and staff will be tested throughout the summer. We are waiting for specific testing recommendations from our local health department.
6. Entering and exiting the community - Camp cannot be a perfect bubble, but we can minimize the amount of people entering and exiting the camp space. This means that we will not have short-term visiting faculty, and will not hold our traditional Leadership or Mitzvah night (but stay tuned for some creative alternatives!). When outside vendors need to enter the camp space, they will stay masked and distant from members of the community. Additionally, we will not allow campers to temporarily leave camp, as we occasionally have in the past.
7. Quarantining - We may require a pre-camp quarantine for our campers and/or campers will need to quarantine with their cabin during the first few days of their session before we are able to merge pods into larger groups. We are awaiting guidance about recommended quarantine procedures.
You may also be wondering about the following:
- Vaccines - It seems unlikely that a significant number of people under the age of 16 will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in time for the summer. We are planning the summer under the assumption that the vaccines will not be widespread enough to have a substantial effect on our operations.
- Transportation to camp - COVID-19 restrictions may not allow us to transport campers by bus this summer. If this is the case, all campers will need to be dropped off at camp by their parents/guardians. We will let you know the best way to get your camper to camp as the summer draws closer with plenty of time to plan your transportation options.
- Health services at camp - This summer we our dedicated team of medical professionals will ensure the health of our community. If we believe that an individual or group has contracted or been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, we will have space for them to be isolated, tested, and monitored by our health staff.
Despite the differences, we know that campers will be able to find themselves, make new friends, learn new skills, and create lifelong memories at camp, just as they always have. By embracing what is new we will grow into an even closer and stronger community.
If you have any questions about this information or about camp in general, please reach out to a member of the camp team (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are so excited to provide your campers with a safe, fun, and meaningful summer at Camp Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp (*clap clap*) for Summer 20Twenty-FUN!