Summer 2021 and COVID-19

Now more than ever, kids need summer camp. They need interaction. They need nature. They need normalcy. We know the pandemic has changed lives and our kids have made sacrifices, and we at YMCA Camp Immokalee want to give them a little bit of what they’re missing. YMCA Camp Immokalee ran 2020 summer as planned, and we plan to run again for Summer 2021. During Summer 2020, we followed protocols that allowed us to get through the summer with no reported COVID-19 spread, and we hope to do the same during Summer 2021.

Following the Experts

Safety is our number one priority, and we’ll continue monitoring CDC, American Camp Association, Y-USA, local cases, and other sources to ensure our policies and procedures are aligned to keep campers as safe as possible.

Beginning at Home

Beginning two weeks prior to the start of camp, we ask that all families monitor their campers and all other members of the household for any possible symptoms or exposure. We ask that you notify us if anyone in your household has COVID-19 symptoms or exposure in those two weeks. We also ask that you keep non-essential travel and outings to a minimum during this time – please avoid parties and get-togethers where people are not social distancing and/or wearing masks. We know this is a big ask, but following this guideline will help keep our campers and their families safe. It only takes one exposure to become COVID-19 positive, and even one positive COVID-19 case can greatly impact camp and our campers.

Having a Plan and a Back-Up Plan

This summer, it is critically important that you have a plan in place to pick up your camper if needed. Campers who have a fever above 100.3 or who have at least two symptoms of COVID-19 will be immediately isolated and must be picked up as soon as possible. While we realize that some COVID-19 symptoms overlap with things that just happen at camp (dehydration, exhaustion, colds, etc.), we cannot put other campers and staff at risk by taking a chance. Please ensure that you have a plan in place (and a back-up plan in place) to have your camper picked up as quickly as possible in the event this happens.

Talking about Water

We make every effort at camp to have campers drink water – that’s one reason we provide water bottles for all campers! We encourage them to fill these bottles up, make frequent water stops, serve water at all meals, and more. However, there are still some campers who just don’t drink enough water.

As mentioned above, symptoms of dehydration can be similar to those of COVID-19, and in Summer 2021, we cannot take the risk of saying something is definitely dehydration and not COVID-19. Campers who have two or more symptoms of COVID-19 will be immediately isolated and sent home. It is more important than ever that you have conversations with your camper before camp to go over the importance of drinking water. This could be the difference between them enjoying a week of camp or going home mid-week.

Arriving at Camp

Check In will look different than it has in previous years (but pretty similar to 2020!). Our Check In system will be drive-thru style – families will be asked to remain in the vehicle and we will complete the Check In process while you’re in the comfort of your car. This does mean that families will not be able to walk to the cabin with their camper, and we know that can be difficult, especially for first-time families. We will make sure your camper and their luggage get comfortably to the cabin, and our counselors will help your camper settle in. We’ll post a video of each cabin Sunday night so you can see your camper’s space.

We ask that families remain in the vehicle in all circumstances. We know you may be tempted to help with luggage, but please don’t worry – our staff and counselors-in-training are prepared to handle all luggage! If you need to speak to a director of the nurse, please tell a staff member and that person will come to your car. Because of possible contamination, our restrooms are closed to families during Check In. We ask that you please visit local restaurants or service stations for restrooms.

Social Distancing and Age Groups at Camp

All campers and staff are assigned to cabins for their time at camp, and for 2021, these cabins will be sorted into age groups. As of now, we will have younger, middle, and older groups, but as we get closer to summer, we will continue to monitor case numbers in our area and may switch to only younger and older groups. Campers and staff will not need to socially distance or wear masks around others in their age group, but they will be required to socially distance from people not in their age group. Activities, meals, and all other aspects of camp will be designed to keep each groups a minimum of 6 feet apart. Whenever possible, this distancing will be marked by cones or signs.

We know age groups can be difficult – they may mean that campers have to stay away from their siblings, cousins, neighbors, and friends, for the week, but they are an important part of minimizing the risk of COVID-19 spread at camp. To better understand age groups, how they work, and how they reduce the risk of spread, look for an upcoming post.

Your camper may have questions about what age group they’ll be in, and unfortunately, there’s not a great way to predict that. Cabin ages and age groups vary session to session based on the number and ages of campers that register. Last year, we had a camper attend multiple weeks of camp, and during his time with us, he was in every each group at least once. Anything can happen! While we’re happy to take cabin requests (requesting a certain camper to bunk with another camper), we, unfortunately, cannot take age group requests (requesting that your camper be in a certain age group). For more information about how this works, we’ll post a blog soon.

At-Camp Screenings

We will take camper and staff temperatures each morning, and we will log any COVID-19 symptoms they feel, including cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, nausea, and diarrhea. If campers or staff have a fever above 100.3 or two of the above symptoms, they will be immediately isolated and sent home.

Our health center staff will also note any campers who visit our clinic with these symptoms during the day and make take temperatures at any time.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

We enhanced our cleaning and sanitizing procedures for Summer 2020, and we will continue those (along with further enhancements) for Summer 2021. All of our sanitizing agents are EPA approved to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, we have installed UV-C units in all our cabins to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Cabin Sizing

For Summer 2020, we limited the capacity of each cabin to 10 campers (with the exception of Owls – our largest cabin). For Summer 2021, our current plan is to increase capacity to 10-14 campers per cabin (with the exception of Owls). We will continue to monitor local cases and may scale back to fewer campers if we deem necessary.

Staff Training

Many of our awesome 2020 staff members are coming back for Summer 2021, which gives us a great headstart in having staff prepared to minimize the risk of COVID. All staff members new and old will receive special staff training around COVID-19, our procedures, and minimizing the risk.

Communication During Camp

As always, YMCA Camp Immokalee strives to communicate with families in a transparent, thoughtful, and thorough way. We will continue our regular communication (Facebook photos posted each day, responding to emails and phone calls, sending out mid-week updates, etc.) and will let families know if anyone in their age group is sent home due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. We will then give families the option to pick up their camper or to allow them to remain at camp.

Exposure at Camp

If someone in your camper’s age group tests positive for COVID-19, we will do our best to determine who in the age group has had direct contact. If we believe it was most or all of the age group, we may make the difficult decision to send the entire age group home. If that decision is made, families will have 24 hours to pick up their campers. Pro-rated refunds will be issued, and campers will have the ability to move to upcoming sessions as long as the sessions start at least 10 days after final exposure or as long as the camper tests negative at least five days post-exposure.

Refund Policy

Deposits for June sessions are non-refundable after June 1, and deposits for July sessions are non-refundable after July 1. Camp funds above the deposit are refundable up to one week prior to the session. After that time, camp payments are forfeited. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the camp director in cases of illness, family emergencies, and other unforeseeable events.

To request a cancellation and refund, please email us at cimmokalee@fcymca.org.

Stayover Weekends

While we made the decision to cancel Stayover Weekends (Saturday nights that connect one session to another) for Summer 2020, we currently plan to bring them back for Summer 2021. Increased staff and sanitization processes make us feel confident we can safely have these weekends while reducing the risk of spread.

Keeping It Fun

This may seem like a lot of protocols and procedures, but we saw from Summer 2020 that it’s still possible to have an incredible camp experience in an environment designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. Campers will still get to choose from their favorite activities, and relationships will still be at the core of what we do. We heard from many families that 2020 was the best summer yet, and with a year of experience under our belt, we’re excited to integrate more fun and campy-ness with our safety protocols.

Questions, Suggestions, Or Concerns?

If you have any additional questions, suggestions, or concerns about our COVID-19 policies and procedures, please email us at cimmokalee@fcymca.org.