Creating a successful overnight camp experience for children at Camp Wise in Claridon Township this summer will take layers of planning and precautions.
In an effort to maintain the health of campers after a year when camp was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Camp Wise director Rachel Felber explained how quarantine, masking, social distancing and testing will be used.
“We spent this entire year planning for a healthy and safe summer,” Felber told the Cleveland Jewish News April 26.
First, the capacity of the camp will drop from 611 to 472 in order for social distancing to be maintained.
“We intentionally lowered our capacity to reduce density,” Felber said. “Everything with COVID tends to be fluid.”
Bunk size will also be smaller, with the largest groups capped at 12 this summer, rather than up to 15.
On May 7, the Camp Wise team at Mandel JCC, which oversees the camp, sent an email to Camp Wise families.
It encouraged children ages 12 to 15 who are eligible for vaccines to be vaccinated.
“Our policies may differ from what the CDC or other sources are sharing, as we are choosing a more conservative path,” the letter reads, with Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland ready to set up clinics for campers and with second shots available during camp.
Most cabins will be reduced from 10 beds to seven or eight to maintain social distancing.
Expectations for campers are that they will isolate with their household for seven days prior to arrival, Felber said, and they will take COVID tests 72 hours prior to arrival, on their first day of camp and on day five of camp.
BowTie Medical will provide tests for campers at the camp and prior to it on June 10 or June 11 and on July 11 and July 12 at a location in Pepper Pike.
“That’s all about screening and creating a healthy and safe environment,” Felber said.
Parents will be asked to stay in their cars, so campers are directed to do their final hugs at home.
In much the same way that schools staggered arrival times, arrival times will be staggered by age group at Camp Wise.
The testing on day one will be a drive-thru test with results available 30 minutes following the test.
Once at camp, campers and staff will be expected to mask in camp-wide gatherings and in their villages, particularly in the first days and weeks.
Felber said each cabin will be its own “pod” or bubble, with campers not expected to mask in their cabins.
However, when they interact with people outside their pod, they will be expected to wear masks.
Younger campers will eat in the dining hall. Older campers will eat in a dining tent. All meals will be served by staff rather than passed from hand to hand or served buffet style. Pre-wrapped sandwiches will be available, instead of a sandwich bar.
Felber said the policies and protocols follow the American Camping Association’s protocols and that on a local level were developed with a team of medical professionals following University Hospitals’ Healthy Restart Playbook.
No new campers will be allowed once camp starts in order to protect the entire camp community, Felber said, with the exception of between sessions.
“We have only two arrival days,” she said.
As camp progresses, if there are no outbreaks of COVID, some masking restrictions will drop, for example among villages. However, masking will continue through the entire session when the camp community gathers as a whole.
As to a successful camp experience this summer, Felber said she hopes it will include the following:
“Everyone coming,” she said, “Every individual feeling welcome, feeling camp has made an impact on them.”