From the Summer Camp Director
While we are all ready for a summer that looks closer to a normal summer, there will need to be a few steps that we need to take to ensure a safe summer. Below, I want to outline some of the high level steps that Camp Daggett is taking to have a safe summer. While many of these steps are to help keep our children safe, it is also important to think about keeping the communities that our campers are going home to safe as well.
The American Camping Association, the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) as well as the CDC have all field guides, resources, and guidelines that Camp Daggett will use and follow to help us have a great summer. Many of the strategies employed by these partner agencies employ Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) to combat the spread of COVID-19. It is important to note that while one layer of NPI is good, having many at one time is the best (Think the Swiss Cheese approach).
Testing is first and foremost on our minds. While many different types of tests exist, they produce different results and have different applicability to a week long summer camp. At this point we are strongly encouraging all campers to receive a molecular PCR test before coming to camp. These tests are highly accurate and can tell if a person has an active COVID infection. However, these tests do require laboratory analysis, which takes time. If a camper has a test done before camp, there is the possibility that they either a) contract COVID in the time before arriving at camp or b) are not presenting with enough viral particles to show up on a test.
Camp Daggett will be spending time this spring evaluating options for antigen-based rapid diagnostic testing that can be completed at check-in. These tests are less sensitive and less accurate, but provide an additional layer of protection as part of our broader NPI strategy. At this point in time, many of the rapid tests that are being marketed are showing promise, but there are some logistical challenges we must overcome, including who can administer these tests and what ages they are allowed for. We will be communicating any updated with parents we develop final protocols.
We are fortunate to have a program that has already been running with cohorts to some degree. A cohort is a group that stays together the whole time at camp, with little mixing with other cohorts. Cohorts are a vital NPI, as they help not only decrease the chance of spreading to other cohorts, but can also assist in the contact tracing should a camper test positive. Cabins will be cohorts at Camp Daggett this summer, and with a few exceptions, will be continuing to spend most of their time with their own cohort. Our hope is that when in a cohort, campers will be able to be unmasked. Additionally, to help keep our cohorts small, all cabins will be limited to 10 campers.
Without a doubt, masks will be a part of camp this summer in one form or another. When not able to have other NPIs in place, like cohorting or distancing, masks will need to be worn. Ideally, campers will be in their cohorts and outside most of the day, but sometimes groups may intermingle and necessitate the use of masks. We will be training our staff on the appropriate time to instruct (and model) the use of facial coverings. Masks will not be required while eating, sleeping, or while swimming. We will be further developing our mask policy this spring.
Drop Off / Pick Up
Our camper drop-off and pick-up times will also look different this summer. Both times will be scheduled to an extent. Exactly what this looks like will be communicated this spring as plans are developed. You can expect to see a limitation on the number of individuals who may accompany a child to check-in, most likely one adult per camper. Screening for symptoms will also be conducted, and will include a temperature check and recent health history. We will be requiring all individuals to wear a facial covering during check in and check out.
Meal times will look different this summer. We will be prioritizing outdoor meals as much as possible, and are working to secure some additional outdoor seating to make this even more convenient for campers and staff. Of course, when weather is not good, we will utilize our covered spaces to serve our meals in a distanced fashion.
We foresee not too many changes to our programming at camp. Our free water and free land time (when campers can choose to go to any land and water area they wish) may need to be modified or eliminated to meet requirements to cohort our campers. We are working on schedule changes to best protect our campers.
Illness at Camp
While we do not like to think about it, there is no way we can guarantee that we will be 100% successful at keeping COVID out of camp. If a camper shows COVID like symptoms, they would be immediately quarantined and their cohort would also need to be restricted in their interactions with others. The symptomatic campers parent/guardian would be contacted and we would make sure that camper was tested for COVID. We would then follow the guidance of our local health department for further action.
While our campers are not eligible for any vaccines currently approved, many of our staff are. We are strongly recommending that all of our staff 16 and up receive their COVID vaccination and have been advised by state and national agencies that they are eligible for prioritization.
While we cannot guarantee a COVID-free summer, we are hopeful we will be able to operate in a manner that will decrease the likelihood of infections at Camp, as well as prevent COVID from entering our camp.
This has been a hard year, and we know the social and emotional toll that this pandemic has brought upon our children. More than ever, our children need camp. Keep an eye out in the spring for further information as well as tips for talking to your camper about coming to camp this summer.