Summer Camp is Back!

Bianna Golodryga and Yon Pomrenze take us through preparations for this year’s summer camp, in a piece for CNN

Summer camp is the light at the end of a very long tunnel. Across the country, summer camps are in their final stages of preparation, just weeks before millions of children arrive for fun, ready to resume the color wars, zip lining, and evening campfires they missed last year when the global health crisis devastated summer camp plans. Closing summer camps was heartbreaking for many organizers, a tough decision that they just had to make. Many summer camps are expecting to be back in business this summer. Summer camps will serve as an elixir for kids, a time to recover from what will be, for them, the biggest disruption of their young lives. 

Strict mitigation strategies will be enforced. Summer camps will be in their reduced capacity in order to ensure social distancing and conform to the Centre for Disease Control’s guidelines for events and gatherings. For instance, many summer camps will install plexiglass in order to create a safe environment. All campers must be tested prior to arrival and after. They will be grouped into smaller cohorts for the first week. Sticking with a pod will be vital for safety and they won’t be mixing of groups. This will ensure that even in the event that a child is infected, the infection will be isolated to a small cohort, rather than spreading out to the rest of the summer camp. Once that first week has gone by, a further round of testing will occur before mitigations can be relaxed. Mitigation controls can be relaxed at this stage given the extent of controls. 

For camps such as Camp IHC, coming up with their protocols was easy because of the wealth of data that has been gathered over the past year and existing guidelines. Organizers have expressed the importance of communicating with parents so they understand how camp will be organized this year, the differences with prior camps and what expectations they should have overall. It’s important to prepare children ahead of time. It’s all about making sure that the best things to do with kids are available to them in a safe environment. 

The YMCA is also back this summer. Thousands of camps run by the YMCA, like Camp Widjiwagan, are also fully booked. The need for summer camps is tremendous. The YMCA’s camps are too big to create Covid-19 bubbles, so pre-testing will b e less important here. Mitigations will be done by taking precautions like smaller bleachers, sanitization stations and having reimagined bunks with ceiling fans, upgraded filter systems to MERV13 filters, and air scrubbers. The cabins have been painted with antibacterial paint. Sneeze and cough guards have been added to all the bunk beds. The camp reduced its numbers last year, but was still able to host 3,200 campers, without any infections taking place. 

Both IHC and Widjiwagan have eliminated off-campus field trips and family visiting this summer. 

It’s fair to say that summer is back, but it will be different, but safer.