We all have COVID-fatigue. Two years into the pandemic, activities continue to be canceled, and we wonder how long it will last. Tradition has it that the groundhog can predict the coming of an early spring. It comes at a time when most people are getting tired of winter and are pining for warmer days. Well, rest assured that summer is coming, and camp is on!
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a long winter. We have seen so many hopeful signs that it was about to end, only to have them disappear, like a groundhog that has seen its shadow. The Omicron wave has brought with it waves of heartache and cancelations. We thought that, surely, by now we would be in the clear and have a semblance of normalcy. Just in the past week, my children’s spring band trip to New Orleans was canceled. My denomination’s triennial youth gathering, once postponed because of the pandemic, was officially canceled. Hundreds of youth groups with thousands of teenagers now have to make alternate summer plans. Two major, potentially life-impacting experiences for my children are now canceled. And we were supposed to be done with COVID by now!
Are you feeling it? Just like the Bill Murray movie, we feel like we are stuck in a cycle of reliving the past. Will the groundhog see its shadow this time, or will this long winter finally be over?
Here is one bit of hope that I cling to: there will be no shadow this time for camp. The truth is that we are not simply reliving the past. We have come a long way since 2020, and there is no doubt that camp is on for 2022! Count on it. Plan for it. Though everything else is canceled, sign your kids up for camp. It is not just that we have effective vaccines and that health professionals are hopeful that the Omicron wave will give way to much lower community spread by mid-Spring. Even if there is a new variant or ongoing spread, camp will be on this summer.
Camp is Safe
Over the past two years, summer camps have proven their effectiveness in operating during the pandemic. In both 2020 and 2021, camps across the country followed rigorous guidelines from the CDC, American Camp Association (ACA), and their local health departments. These camps were incredibly successful at preventing the spread of COVID-19. And they are getting better at it!
Summer camp is almost custom-made to gather safely during a pandemic. First and foremost, most programs are outside, and camps have been able to modify programs and mealtimes to limit even further the time spent inside with large groups. Second, the summer camp experience focuses on small group interaction, naturally limiting group spread. Third, camps are incredibly conscious of simple safety measures, so strategies like masking in large groups and washing hands are easy to implement. Many camps have also implemented testing strategies to ensure that anyone infected is not in close contact with others. After two pandemic summers, camps are more prepared than ever to operate safely this summer, regardless of how widespread COVID-19 is in the community.
You may recall a few high-profile cases of COVID-19 outbreaks at summer camp. In every one of these cases, the camp in question intentionally ignored mitigation strategies. They were the exceptions and clear examples of how not to operate. How do you know if your camp is following the guidelines? A simple check of the website will tell you. Those following the guidelines will have their mitigation strategies in a prominent place. If you see the ACA accreditation logo, that should also give you peace of mind. No COVID-19 strategy at your camp? Send your kids somewhere else. I assure you that there is another camp close by with a great program that is taking the pandemic very seriously.
Kids Need Camp
More than ever, kids need what camp has to offer. Time outdoors. Unplugging from their electronic devices. Healthy peer interaction. Positive young adult mentors. Active, fun, participatory learning. Immersion in a faith-centered environment. Camp has everything that parents want for their kids.
Oftentimes, the major barrier is time. Kids are so busy with other activities that camp is sometimes hard to squeeze into a summer schedule, no matter how much parents agree with its benefits. That is why the time is now to sign your kids up. The upshot of our family having two major trip cancelations is that it has freed up both time and money that we can now invest in camp experiences.
So many other things are on hold or being canceled because of the ongoing pandemic. But camp is on. Count on it. Sign your kids up today and lock in a fun, safe, life-impacting experience in the midst of so much loss.