We understand that families want to know how North Country Camps plans to handle Covid-19 for the 2021 season. Our Covid Planning Group, consisting of our directors, certain board members and medical professionals, has started a detailed planning process. We are following guidelines from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Camping Association (ACA). We have consulted with camps that ran successfully in the 2020 summer season and we’re assessing school system protocols as well. We are feeling very optimistic for the 2021 summer and confident that we’ll be running camp. We’re fortunate that based on our size, location and the manner in which we normally operate, NCC is very well positioned to offer a phenomenal summer experience without having to make dramatic changes in its program.
Our goal for the 2021 season is to create a safe, fun program that stays true to our child-centered philosophy. We will continue to prioritize the social, emotional and physical health of our campers and staff. Exactly what camp will look like will be heavily dependent on the COVID situation at that time, but we will remain grounded in the values that are intrinsic to NCC: the importance of outdoor play in a technology-free environment where children can learn to negotiate with their peers while developing autonomy and honing their sense of adventure. It would be premature to say exactly which measures we’ll be implementing, but here’s a look at the kind of options we’re assessing.
Transportation, Added January 2021
Historically, NCC has provided group bus transportation at the beginning and close of camp. However, we are currently re-evaluating our transportation and camper drop-off systems as we adapt to safer practices. The information below reflects our current thinking, but we have not yet set a formal policy. You can expect a detailed policy in the Spring, when state regulations are clear.
We understand that many families rely on the NCC bus to transport their campers. However, taking a large number of campers on buses as we usually do may not be advisable or even possible. In the interest of ensuring the health and safety of our camp community, we want you to know that we are considering severely limiting, or even canceling chartered bus trips to camp. Since the safest way to travel in this environment is by personal vehicle, families who are able to transport their campers to and from camp should start planning to do so.
Irrespective of mode of transport, we plan to have symptom screening upon arrival at camp. Any child who does not pass symptom screening will be required to isolate, away from camp, until meeting clearance by testing and CDC guidelines. For this reason, it will be necessary that a parent, guardian or designated adult accompany all children to camp drop off.
Prior to Travel
To minimize the number of people at drop-off we are asking families to bring only the family members that they need to attend. Leave elderly or at-risk family members at home.
Minimizing Exposure and Screening Considerations
Minimizing exposure: Families will be asked to minimize high risk activities in the two weeks preceding the start of camp.
Testing: As testing is more readily available now, we will likely ask campers to be tested a predetermined number of days before arrival to camp.
Screening: Prior to travel, perform a health screening (camp will provide one in advance) to answer questions about exposure and symptoms related to Covid-19. Stay home if any member of your family or vehicle occupant answers “yes” to a question.
This will look very different this year for parents who have dropped off their child at camp in the past. In anticipation that more families will be arriving by car this summer, we are considering implementing the following measures to ensure a smooth and timely transition for campers and their families.
Staggered drop-off: We will assign multiple afternoon drop off times to better accommodate families and ensure faster turnaround times for travelers.
Staging area for vehicles: We will only allow vehicles in a pre-designated staging area.
Restricted access to camp: We will ask occupants to remain seated in their vehicles until a staff member greets them. Camper luggage will be delivered to cabins and staff will assist campers to their cabins. Goodbye’s with family members will happen at the staged drop-off location.
On-site health screening: Campers must be accompanied by a responsible adult to the designated check-in area. Any child that does not pass the health screening will be asked to isolate and follow additional testing before being allowed on camp property.
Medication delivery: There will be a system in place to drop off medications that could not be mailed. We encourage families to schedule a time to speak to the nurse in advance about any specific medication or health questions.
Other Drop-off/Pick-up Dates
We have not made any decisions as to how we will schedule pick-up from camp. We are also currently exploring how to address safety measures with respect to having campers arrive at later session starts. If you are a family with a camper enrolled for a second session start, please contact the directors prior to making travel reservations.
Ground Transportation and Air Travel
Any camper that arrives by public ground transport or air must have an adult guardian with them should the camper not pass the health screening. Our normal airport pickup policy will likely be restricted or put on hold this summer. If you travel by bus, train or plane be aware that sitting within 6 feet of others for a prolonged period of time can put you at higher risk of getting or spreading the coronavirus. For the purposes of ground transport and air travel, people should avoid wearing neck gaiters or homemade masks and wear proper surgical/medical grade masks instead (the ones you can buy in boxes of 50 at a time).
General Safety Considerations, Added December, 2020
Increased Use of Outdoor Spaces: We will be looking at ways in which we can spend even more time outside including certain activities, special events, free time, meals, etc.
Distancing and Mask Use: There are certain activities and times during the summer which may require mask use and enhanced distancing precautions. By creating a tight “bubble” at camp, it is possible that mask use could be more limited as the summer progresses.
Sessions: We are considering whether it is safe to bring campers in as part of a second session once this “bubble” has been created. How we ultimately respond to this will depend on the current state of the science (i.e. vaccines, testing, disease prevalence). Until we finalize this decision, we recommend you strongly consider registering your child for a session that starts on the first day of camp, June 27th.
Meals: We will be maintaining dining hall capacity in accordance with guidelines from the NYSDOH. We will be making use of outdoor spaces for meals in addition to the dining hall. Children may begin the summer eating in designated cohorts to minimize risk.
Cabin Capacity: We do not anticipate that New York State will be limiting our camp capacity but we will communicate with families as we know more. We will adhere to NYSDOH guidelines for sleeping arrangements which may mean making adjustments to cabin sizes and current cabin groups.
Testing, Hygiene & Cleaning Protocols
Thoughts on Testing: We expect to implement a testing program. We have seen significant evolution over the past several months with respect to the types, accuracy, access, and turnaround for testing, and our COVID Planning Group is working hard to select the best approach for our community. We expect a negative test will be required to enter camp at the start of the summer. We will likely ask families to limit potential high-risk exposures prior to the start of camp. We anticipate that further testing will happen during the summer. We will be investigating partnerships with testing providers to support our needs.
Hygiene & Cleaning: We will plan for a substantial increase in supervision of hand washing. High risk, high touch areas, in particular, (e.g. bathrooms and common/activity areas) will have dedicated cleaning protocols that meet requirements from the NYSDOH.
COVID Fee: Ensuring the health and safety of our campers and staff next summer will involve added costs. Rather than increase camp tuition, we anticipate having a COVID fee to offset these expenses (testing, enhanced hygiene measures, equipment, large tents, cleaning materials, PPE, etc.).
Limited Movement & Limiting Exposure
We anticipate limiting the amount of travel in and out of camp. We will be paying special attention to guidelines for vendors, visitors & staff to maintain a safe environment.
Inter-camp sports: It’s likely that we will not be participating in sporting events with other camps, but will be sure to have innovative programming that maintains this aspect of the camp experience.
Wilderness Program: We are hoping to have a robust trip program, but this may be impacted by the need to minimize mingling with the outside world.
Visiting Day & Camp Arrivals/Departures: We will be assessing Visiting Day and its potential impact on safety. Similarly, we will share guidelines with families on picking up their children at the end of their camp session. We will update families as plans unfold around facilitating safe transportation to and from camp.
It’s important to reiterate that our planning is ongoing and evolving. We recognize, for example, that if a vaccine is available by next summer, that could have a material impact on how we operate. To guide our decision-making, we will rely on expertise, scientific knowledge and proven data, which we will garner from the appropriate federal, state and local authorities and vet internally. We will communicate regularly with camp families as things take shape. We welcome your input and thank you for entrusting us with the care of your children.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the directors with your thoughts.
Doug, Jen & the members of the NCC Covid Planning Group