Freedom—June 7, 2020—The key to opening children’s overnight camps this summer is to think of campers and staff as members of a “single family home” that will “shelter in place” in a kind of social bubble closed off from the surrounding world.
That’s the gist of the governor’s guidance on overnight camps, which was released on Friday. The 18-page document is based on recommendations by national camping organizations and children’s health specialists, with counsel from the CDC and an overlay of universal pandemic guidelines formulated by the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force.
The document’s global recommendations encompass promoting healthy hygiene, intensifying cleaning and disinfecting, encouraging social distancing, adjusting camp activities to limit close contact, and training all employees on health and safety protocols.
But the specifics about how to achieve those goals may present an array of challenges to camps that have been waiting for the guidance before deciding whether to open. On Ossipee Lake that includes Camp Robin Hood and Camp Cody.
Per the state, each camp must develop a COVID-19 medical plan and obtain personal protective gear and virus testing supplies sufficient for the season. Staff coming from out of state must arrive two weeks in advance and quarantine on-site. They will be monitored daily for COVID-19 symptoms and receive three separate polymerase chain reaction-based (PCR) ‘swab tests’ on a fixed schedule before opening day.
Out of state campers must quarantine at home for two weeks before camp starts, and all campers, regardless of where they live, must be tested for the virus within seven days of their arrival at camp. They will be tested again when they arrive, and those staying longer than two weeks will be tested a third time.
Camps must establish direct-to-camp and direct-to-home parent or guardian transportation options that limit exposing the local community to out of state campers and staff. Camp visitors will be limited to essential service providers who must wear face masks. Parental visits will be limited to emergencies.
Camp life will be quite different during the pandemic. Central to the state’s guidance is the creation of cohort groups of no more than ten, such as eight campers and two counselors. These groups will remain together during the camping session, and must limit their interactions with other camper groups by staying six feet apart, indoors and outdoors.
Camp activities, including sports, will need to be revised to reflect recommendations on physical distancing and cohort group size. Field trips “should be avoided,” and inter-camp athletics and socials “will not be allowed.”
Buffet-style meals are off the table, and meal times should staggered to limit group interaction. One section of the guidance frowns on family-style meals, while another offers them as an alternative if the food is served by counselors.
The use of sports equipment, art supplies and other high-touch items should be limited to one group at a time, with materials cleaned and disinfected after each use. Campers will be advised to keep their personal belongings, including clothes and toiletries, separated from the belongings of others, with sharing discouraged.
Face masks will not be required for counselors when they are with their cohort group, but should be worn “as much as possible” when working outside their cabin if physical distancing is not possible.
Camps are encouraged to keep counselors and other staff on-site as much as possible during the camping season, and specific protocols are detailed for those needing to leave camp for business or personal reasons.
Washing hands regularly and covering coughs and sneezes will be the rule for all.
Camps may open on June 28, per the state. On Ossipee Lake, camps Robin Hood and Cody said a week ago they would make a decision about opening after they have a chance to review the governor’s guidelines. Camps Marist, Huckins and Calumet canceled their 2020 season last month.