The American southeast is the first to start summer camps in June, while other areas will follow suit in July.
Although most summer camps will be open, capacity reduction obligations under COVID-19 restrictions and a shortage of manpower will see the number of campers drop well below the normal threshold of 26 million, said Tom Rosenberg of the American Camp Association.
Across America, many summer camps face competition for camp counselors in a tough job market. Nonetheless, preparations are underway for the upcoming holiday season, although camp directors are still compiling worker lists and health guidelines.
At Glorieta Adventure Camps, outside the city of Santa Fe, nestled in the foothills of a pine forest in New Mexico, a group of camp staff began their work orientation by getting vaccinated.
All of these vaccinations will help stop the spread of COVID-19 even though camp participants under the age of 12 are considered too young to get vaccinated.
This means the experience will be similar to what was offered at a number of one-night campgrounds operating last year.
The tested measures include grouping children of the same age, requiring the use of masks, emphasizing social distancing, and washing hands frequently.
At Glorieta, staff arrived in May from Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico to receive training on safety protocols, from protecting themselves from viruses to ziplining to maintaining safety in ponds or lakes.
The camp is operating at one-third capacity, 1,100 of the 3,000 people and staff are grouped into small groups. Children are expected to wear masks, even outside, except when they are eating or in the bedroom.
Josh Nelson, executive assistant director of Glorieta, said, “The only time we can see them with their masks removed is when they are in the middle of their age.”
More than 90 percent of staff agree to be vaccinated but there is no obligation to vaccinate.
Despite the safety restrictions, conditions are now much better than last year when camps were canceled and 80 percent of staff laid off in March, Nelson said. A loan from the Federal Payroll Protection Program helps, but does not alleviate all financial difficulties, he continued.
For Tom Rosenberg, organizing this year’s camp was important in providing a feeling of “normality” for children who have faced distance learning, cancellations and boredom at home, not to mention health concerns.
To the Associated Press, the President and CEO of the American Camp Association said, “We need to work together this summer to give our children the best possible summer. There will be so much joy, happiness, camaraderie and lessons learned in camp. To achieve that , we really need to accept these basic guidelines and listen to the camp directors who are doing their best to care for your children; making sure they are safe, healthy and happy.”
Last year, about 19.5 million children were unable to attend camp. Rosenberg said he hoped more children would be able to attend this year’s camp, but he declined to estimate the number of participants this year.
Most of the one-night campgrounds that remained open last summer were mostly successful.
But there are important notes about some of the outbreaks. Of these, more than 250 people were infected at a camp in Georgia, and more than 80 others at a camp in Missouri. [uh/ab]