Camp Sequoia opened and had a healthy and successful summer in 2020. But it wasn’t easy. As news of increased case counts of COVID-19 made the news and different states developed different benchmarks for opening, threading the needle to meet local and state regulations for the summer of 2020 was a challenge to say the least. Many good camps weren’t willing or able to open this summer. Recognizing the value of camping, we want to share with the greater camping community what worked for us.
Running a COVID free residential camp where kids could thrive in summer 2020 was our goal– and we succeeded. Our kids were safe and 100% COVID free. Our staff was safe and 100% COVID free. Our approaches may not make sense for others, but the results speak for themselves.
What looked different about Camp Sequoia this summer?
First and foremost, let me be very clear. Camp Sequoia operated this summer in a new location. We made several meaningful structural changes to allow our kids to thrive. We made significant programmatic changes, radically changed certain health and staff-related procedures, added sanitizing foggers, enhanced handwashing and greatly increased education and mentorship of kids on appropriate places and spaces to make this summer a success. What we did worked for us. It kept campers and staff at Camp Sequoia safe.
How did the community come together? Camp Sequoia followed a multi-pronged approach to opening up COVID free. Camp Sequoia tested all staff and all campers prior to kids arriving on site. We retained Vault Health for COVID screening and its saliva-based test, developed at Rutgers, could be done at home and didn’t involve invasive nasal swabs. This saliva test, administered three days before the camper or staff member was supposed to arrive at camp, worked well for us – it excluded asymptomatic individuals from joining our community–which was the point really.
All members of our camp community also kept a daily signed health log for two weeks before arriving at camp. Our staff further quarantined together during staff training for two weeks at camp before campers arrived at the site.
Camper arrivals on site were staggered and communal transportation was reduced and operated at 50% normal passenger capacity. These transportation adjustments further reduced risks.
Luggage arrived separately from campers and was fogged upon arrival before it entered camper accommodations. We used EPA N-List chemicals for all of our fogging. Please feel free to contact us for additional details on specific cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection procedures.
What about food service? Meals were staggered, involved increased natural air ventilation, and clustered campers by bunk with 10 foot spaces between unlike ages. Children were monitored to use hand sanitizer within 45 seconds of receiving their food (served by on-site, COVID screened dining hall staff). Children were served by age group. Our staff performed all food receiving, storage, prep and service according to updated ServSafe COVID guidelines.
How did you handle bathroom and shower use? We limited bathroom use in public areas (accessible to multiple age groups) and encouraged bunk specific bathroom use. The dining hall was fogged (see note above) before and after each meal. Bunk bathrooms were fogged daily and common shared spaces were fogged multiple times per day.
Did you do any trips? We did not take our campers off site to any place where they could interact outside of our bubble. This is not to say that kids didn’t have excursions this summer. We did blueberry picking, horseback riding etc. where we could take the bubble with us and not break a 6 foot contact barrier with anyone outside of our community.
With regard to staff, during off hours, we provided enhanced staff recreational opportunities on site and limited staff movement off campus. With regard to camp’s ongoing and not always foreseeable need for materials, we obviously preferred to have needed items shipped to camp rather than go to the store but that was not always possible. For those rare occasions where we had to pick up, we had one dedicated staff person for each age group and each specialty to do all necessary curbside pickups for supplies for that group. These staff members went into town wearing masks and gloves and did not live with campers.
How did your staff support your mission? Our medical team did daily health screenings for the first 14 days of camp (given the known incubation period of COVID) with both campers and staff and an in-depth medical assessment each week and if there was any need so to do. We found that these screenings, done at breakfast, were non-invasive and were well received and accepted by our community. While we asked a lot of our staff, they delivered well. We had no fevers (regardless of cause) this summer. We had no colds, nor did we need to go to a hospital or urgent care with ANY cold, flu or COVID symptoms for any member of our community, camper or staff.
For questions or details about our approach, methods and successes in 2020, please feel free to reach out to us via email at email@example.com or give us a call at 610-771-0111.
Brian Lux, is the owner/director of Sequoia programs, serving ADHD, gifted and twice-exceptional young men. Details on his research based approaches can be found @ www.camp-sequoia.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in the article above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Camp Channel, Inc.
This article has been published to provide a first-hand account of one camp’s efforts and experience operating in the midst of Covid-19 during the summer of 2020; for the benefit of camp families, camp professionals, and the public at large. What may “work” for one camp might not for another. We believe safety is of paramount importance and urge those seeking to attend a camp in 2021 use due diligence and contact a camp directly about their systems, protocols, and outcomes.
If you operated a camp or program during the summer of 2020, please contact us to discuss the possibility of sharing your experiences and insights on VerySpecialCamps.com.