2021 POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
We wanted to provide an update regarding our plan for camp amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s difficult to pick the right time to give you an update, as just like the pandemic itself, the protocols, knowledge gained, and public health guidelines will be changing right up to the summer.
While we are not yet able to fine-tune many parts of our plan as we await official direction from the government, we want to provide you with an update regarding our anticipated framework and some of the protocols we are considering. It’s tough to decide how much information to share at this time given that many factors are subject to change in next four months, however, in keeping with our Manitou philosophy, we would rather give you more information than necessary so you can get a sense of our safety policies and procedures as they come to fruition.
We can’t wait to get to camp this summer. Your kids need camp – and we need camp too!
It’s going to be a rollercoaster until July 1st. Camp is still four months away, so our final protocols and decisions will be based on the circumstances closer to June 1st and not now. Our best guess, like yours, is that things will continue to improve, may get worse and then get better again, so we are preparing accordingly and are assuming the strictest protocols, though these can always be changed.
We are fortunate to be able to work with many organizations and individuals who are providing guidance to us. This includes our own camp doctors, one of whom is Dr. Jeremy Friedman, Associate Pediatrician-in-Chief, SickKids Hospital. Jeremy has been consulting for the OCA (Ontario Camps Association) with the SickKids team in reviewing proposed guidance documents for camps. We have also consulted with infectious disease experts, the American Camp Association and its direct work with the CDC (Centre for Disease Control).
We are proud to say that the Ontario Camp Community of over 450 accredited camps are working hand in hand, in strength together. Along with the excellent work of the OCA and American Camp Association, we have reviewed several of their webinars as well as peer-reviewed scientific studies on the 400+ successful camps that operated in the US last summer. We feel we are in an excellent position to have yet another “Best Summer Ever”.
Below will give you a better sense of how some aspects of the summer will be handled in lieu of COVID-19. Please note that any protocol below could be removed or revised and others could be added. We just want to provide a better understanding of what Manitou and other camps are currently considering putting into place as of today.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is your honest feeling about Manitou’s ability to run safely this summer? We really want camp to happen, and we trust you do as well, but we are still a bit nervous.
Manitou decided to not run camp last summer and it’s important to remember the reason we made that decision prior to the Ontario Government’s mandate. We could not in good conscience make a decision risking our Manitou family without the appropriate knowledge at the time. Our medical experts told us that we just did not have enough data to make the most informed decision possible. Now with exponential increases in epidemiological knowledge (including peer-reviewed scientific studies by American camps and the ACA), a progressing comprehension of the COVID-19 virus and related control, as well as, a deeper understanding of aerosol transport and controls, and the availability of testing, we are able to address the initial concerns of opening overnight camping to ensure a safe experience of all participants.
As important, last spring we did not have any available testing, even for PCR tests. Finally, we did not have the appropriate time to prepare for the summer logistically, with protocols, screening, pre-arrival testing, training, site modifications etc. It is for the exact same reason we took a very conservative view last spring, that this year, we are confident that camp should and must be able to run in a way that will finally give your children the opportunity to be kids again.
In reviewing the lessons learned from medical experts, frontline healthcare professionals, infectious disease specialists, camp professionals, policy experts and government officials, and SickKids consultants, it is the view of not only the Canadian and the Ontario Camp Association, but also The American Camp Association, the State governments to the south, and the CDC, that camps not only can run, but should run this summer.
It is also important to remember that last spring we did not yet understand that the risk to healthy children from COVID-19 is minimal in comparison with adults.
How will you minimize the possibility of COVID-19 entering camp?
You will be receiving detailed instructions requiring every staff and camper to honour a “social contract” before camp, so that one week prior to camp you and your family members have done their best to limit their contacts. Each family and staff will have to fill out a social contract and monitoring form outlining information about their contacts and approach to limiting their child’s and family’s exposure prior to camp, as well as daily symptom monitoring. This will of course include 100% follow-through on social distancing, masking and only doing what is essential in your family’s bubble during this time.
That means, for example, if you normally shop in a grocery store for the week prior to camp, we would ask that you do curbside pick-up. Essentially, there should be no physical contact with anyone outside of the household unless absolutely necessary. Of course, campers should not be attending graduation celebrations or any social get togethers during this time. Siblings and parents should also follow the same rules.
We intend to follow the procedure of cohorting similar to day camps last year so that if there are any potential cases in camp, we can isolate them to a smaller group at the start of camp, when there is a greater chance for a case to occur. As such, campers will be cohorted in the first week to ten days of camp until camp is given the all-clear. We are hopeful that over time the cohorts will increase in size, so that activities can be expanded by age and unit giving campers more choice of activities. Second session we will cohort the appropriate campers as well.
How will campers get tested, and what will this cost?
Each camper will have to obtain two PCR tests prior to their arrival at camp. As of now, each person entering camp will have to obtain a PCR test approximately five days before camp. We are hoping the Ontario government will facilitate a simple way for all campers to receive this test, at no cost, but we do not know if the government will agree to this.
There will then be a second test either on departure day, or the day before. Because this test will require a maximum 24-hour turnaround time, we will arrange this to make this as comfortable for your child. Again, this may change based on what the government decides, and what services they are willing to pay for, but for now we are assuming this cost will not be covered. If rapid testing is considered effective and widely available at the time, this may lower costs. We are also searching out all available PCR tests including saliva tests in case they become available.
The same testing of course will be occurring for all camp staff.
You will see below that we are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on camp modifications, which Manitou will absorb, however the testing cost will need to be shared with you. We expect there will be a COVID-19 testing fee that will be in the range of $200-$400 per camper. This fee would help to cover testing of all staff, along with testing prior to camp and necessary testing during the summer for campers and staff. We will advise closer to camp what this cost is.
Will the staff be vaccinated?
It has been recommended by the CDC that camp staff be in the same priority for vaccines as teachers and childcare workers. Many states in the US have already decided to vaccinate camp staff at the same time as teachers. We hope to hear some positive news on this policy decision in the coming months, and if this occurs, of course that will affect many of the protocols.
What about testing during camp?
We will be testing during the summer using PCR saliva tests and have available also on site point of care PCR tests and Antigen testing as well. As a result we will be able to get on site testing done in a way that is most comfortable for all.
If parents wish to pay for an additional test before their kids leave for home, we are happy to give a rapid test or other test within 24 hours of departure if same is available. Although, it can be difficult to predict when further developments in testing will occur, we hope by camp there will be an accurate saliva test that will be far more pleasant for any child to receive!
Will my kids go up on the bus to camp?
All families will drive their own children to camp and bus home at the end of the session.
What is this about the “camp bubble”?
One of the advantages of overnight camp is that we can create a bubble of our Manitou family members within camp. That means that we will be limiting people entering and leaving camp. Of course, there will be trips to the local hospital and repairmen in to fix appliances and equipment as deemed necessary, but strict measures and testing where appropriate, will apply to anyone entering camp, in addition to masking and social distancing. We will be vigorous in this regard.
How can you bubble the staff?
All of our staff know that they will have a different type of ‘Day Off’ this summer. We have been fortunate to gain access to the adjacent former Inn at Manitou staff cabins for our own staff so that they can enjoy time off in a comfortable setting, with a wonderful firepit and of course delicious snacks! We are clearing a special staff only beach for them to hang out as well.
Our special bubble will be monitored by our medical team and advisors and all going well, it’s possible that we may be able to loosen things up and allow some of our mitigation measures to be lessened over time.
Is there any other part of the program or day that will change at camp?
At Manitou, especially for our older campers, we pride ourselves on activity choices. For the safety of our campers and staff this summer, we must start off each session doing activities as a cabin group. As the summer progresses we may expand the cohorts for activities but this will be determined at the time based on the age of the children, taking into account the needs of the campers in terms of structure and routine as well as their request for more activity choice. We will not be asking parents for specific activity requests this year, but the counsellors will be reviewing with the cabin which activities they would prefer, and this will be taken into consideration as best as we can for scheduling.
Each cabin in every age group will have at least one General Counsellor (a counsellor that does not work at an activity) this summer who will spend as much time with the campers to give them added support and help facilitate the COVID protocols, including a daily health screening.
What about Visitors Day, Rookie Day, Overnight Trips, Day Trips, and Intercamp?
Unfortunately, we will have to cancel Visitors Day this year. For our full session campers we will determine the best way for you to hear from your child and we will ensure we have the typical excellent Manitou communication during critical times like this and of course all summer long.
As we are doing our best to maintain a bubble environment, we cannot have any additional short 2 night trials with our day camps for younger campers or Intercamp games with other camps or beach days on Thursdays.
My child is registered for second session. I’ve heard that some camps have decided to cancel this session; what about Manitou?
We respect the decision of any camp that decides to cancel second session. As of now, it is our feeling that if we are able to create a safe first session for campers, there is no reason we can’t do it again for second session. If we feel the need to cohort second month children together upon arrival, we can always do that easily.
What protocols are you considering for camp to ensure it’s as safe as possible?
We could honestly write 30 pages on the protocols and modifications being made for this summer, but let us highlight some examples:
Two-thirds of the camp will eat outside under canopies/tents, including one on our older basketball court. One third of our campers will eat in dining hall with specific entry and exit protocols and social distancing in place. There will also be additional ventilation with many windows being replaced with screens. We are currently reviewing two types of successful dining protocols, but most importantly, cohorts will be six feet away from each other and time spent eating will be reduced as all announcements will be done in a separate area outside.
Of course, washing hands is the best method to keep hands clean, and as such, Manitou will be installing new sinks outside the dining hall so cabins can wash their hands before they enter. Additionally, hand sanitizer will be required as you enter and exit the dining hall and at all activities. We have purchased a special sanitizer that actually aids in disinfecting the virus for up to 24 hours (unless you get your hands wet), but we will assume it should still be used throughout the day.
We will have contactless water fountains or create systems so campers can fill their water bottles safely.
A new tuck system will be implemented to preorder tuck so kids are not in a line up, as well as snack attack being distributed by cabin instead of unit, are a couple examples of adjustments we are making to snack times.
We are replacing many of the windows in camper cabins and the dining hall with screens. All of this work will be done in the spring before camp. We are going to hold many activities outside through the use of tents, the hangar (which can open on two sides) and If we do use indoor facilities, masking may be required.
We are creating an outdoor area for the health center to triage all campers privately, with the actual health center being used only for non-COVID-19 medical matters. There are numerous new protocols and updates for the health centre; for example, we have purchased another golf cart so a nurse can bring the camper’s medications to their cabins to eliminate line ups outside the health centre.
We have already hired professional RPNs who are experts at COVID-19 protocols and testing and will increase our number of health care staff from four to seven.
We have hired an additional health care worker whose expertise is in mental health so that we can support campers and staff if they are anxious or concerned about COVID-19, or if they are feeling the effects of having had an unusual, and emotionally challenging year.
We have hired additional camp staff to deal with the logistics of the summer and to ensure our regular program and supports are not affected in any way.
What about PPE and will our kids be wearing masks?
Based on how much clothing does not come home each summer, it is our view that campers will inevitably lose their masks. Therefore based on recent medical knowledge and the fact that cloth masks will get lost and need to be cleaned properly, we feel the best form of masking is the Level 3 disposable mask for all campers and staff. We personally have been using these masks and feel they are comfortable and will work best in the heat.
Campers may have to wear such masks while in the initial phase of camp if they leave their cohort or if they are participating in a program outside where they come within six feet of other campers, when they enter and leave the dining hall if eating any meals indoors and during camp wide or unit wide activities where cabins cannot stay six feet apart. This may change once we receive the all-clear but that will be decided at the time. Also it could be that cases are so low by the time camp starts that none of this is even required but right now we want you to be aware of the worst case scenario.
We are therefore asking parents to purchase 1-2 masks per day of their stay. We are currently working with a company that will have an online ordering system for you to purchase masks online and have them delivered to your home prior to camp. We expect the cost for masks will be approximately 30 cents each.
We expect staff and campers to go through two to four masks a day and we will be providing these same masks to our staff at not cost to them. We have already arranged with a Canadian supplier to have all of our PPE delivered in time for camp.
Will you contact us if our child may have COVID-19?
Manitou has always taken pride in providing the best health care as well as excellent communication to our parents. So of course, this summer that will remain as a priority and we will contact you if your child is being tested or isolated for symptoms. At Manitou you are always welcome to call or contact us if you are feeling uneasy about anything.
What happens if my child has COVID-19 symptoms?
Depending on the type of test available, the camper will be quarantined until the test results are returned.
We have created a three-tier approach for monitoring campers with COVID-19 symptoms or exposures. The first cabin will be used to house campers overnight who have tested positive or we think could possibly have COVID-19. Campers will be placed in separate rooms and be monitored closely by our health care team.
We have a separate indoor facility for campers who receive a PCR positive result and are awaiting their parent/guardian to pick them up. If a camper tests positive, we will contact the parent/guardian immediately or their emergency contact with updates and you will be able to speak to your child. The camper will have to be picked up as soon as possible. For local parents we would expect them to be picked up within 12 hours and for others within 24 hours maximum.
If a camper or staff tests positive, our physician or the local medical officer of health will make a determination at camp if the cohort then gets tested.
Regular health issues will still be treated in the health centre and campers will stay in the health center for those not affected by COVID-19.
Campers and staff will be allowed screen time if in isolation and we will be providing iPads so they can watch movies, etc.
What if a camper has to go home? We know they will feel fine even if they test positive – this is really about protecting the older staff like you camp directors!
Again, we are assuming that staff have not been vaccinated, and if they are, the rules may change. Therefore, we need to assume that for the protection of the staff, any camper who tests positive will have to go home until they are cleared by the Ontario government to come back to camp. We expect that will be ten days from the onset of symptoms and one or two negative tests. We will make available for first month campers, second month spaces, in the event the camper can return healthy.
What activities will be changed at camp this summer or cancelled?
All of our 33 activities will be full scale ahead except for Horseback Riding and Golf because they operate off-site. Unfortunately, we will not be able to hold our usual canoe trips or the LIT rafting trip this summer. We are creating a special place for cabins to camp out on our lake so at least they will still have the opportunity for an overnight experience.
What about camp-wide gatherings like Flagpole and Friday Night Fireside?
At the start of camp, flagpole will be held as always and be the same fun, silly time that the kids love, but we will spread out on main field similar to how we conduct a fire drill and install a speaker system. Fireside at the start of camp may have to be held in a larger location until such time that we feel camp is COVID-19 free.
What about those coming from outside Canada?
While travel to Canada from the US and overseas is still restricted, most of the Ontario camps accredited by the OCA are currently assuming that reasonable conditions will exist come June that may allow international campers and staff to enter the country without the overly burdensome conditions for entry. As indicated, any camper who tests positive will have to be picked up within a 24-hour period and therefore it’s essential that campers from other countries have a guardian to pick them up and take care of them for the appropriate time period.
The mental health value of being back at camp
When evaluating risk, we know we can manage the physical risks for our staff and campers, but we must also keep in mind that the mental health of our children requires us to do whatever we can to make camp happen within the physical risk management safety net. The mental health issues experienced by our younger population far outweighs the controllable risks that physical health issues that COVID-19 presents. The lack of socialization, in person learning, physical activity and face to face communication has greatly impacted their healthy growth and development.
We know the impact high levels of stress have on the overall health and wellbeing of a child. COVID-19 is leading directly to increased screen time for children and decreased physical activity. Both these realities are directly related to increases of stress and anxiety.
Spending time at camp, more specifically in nature, is known to reduce stress levels and increase overall feelings of well-being. For many kids, summer camp is one of the first times they get the opportunity to be fully immersed in nature for an extended period of time. This summer may be the first chance in a long time to actually make a new friend and remember what it’s like to just socialize in a positive screen-free outdoor environment.
We also recognize that the mental health of campers and their levels of anxiety can be heightened as a result of having to take COVID tests before camp and we are therefore trying to do our best to provide the least invasive test possible. At camp, we anticipate that most testing will be less invasive unless a PCR test is required by the medical officer of health.
We expect there may be some mixed feelings surrounding being in large groups at camp after we have spent so much time at home and in smaller group settings. We will be there to support every camper. This summer we have hired an additional health care staff with a strong background in mental health counselling within schools, which will provide another layer of support for camp, alongside our incredible nurses and doctors.
What are the deadlines on deposit and forms?
For Summer 2021, we will be requiring the full payment on June 1st instead of May 1st and will send out invoices in early April this year. As we have said, if you wish to cancel, you may do so up to June 1st for a full refund of fees paid. Camper medical and other forms a bit later this year at the beginning of April and will be due May 1st.
We know all this information may sound overwhelming but in reality if we spelled out for you every policy, and protocol for camp unrelated to Covid it would feel similar. We are experts at taking these measures and making them seamless and ensuring the campers are feeling comfortable and having the best time.
We want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to make camp a safe and wonderful place this summer. We want to reemphasize that these considered protocols are still very much under advisement and will continue to change as we prepare for the summer. If you do have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out at any time. We remain hard at work prepared to give your child(ren) an incredible summer that will allow for more interpersonal connections, positive mental state and a place for important person growth this summer. We know the benefits of camp are more important now than ever before.
Being outside, with friends, having counsellors to mentor and guide your child, going to 33 activities, playing in rain puddles, talking in the cabin at night, having crazy evening programs such as paint your counsellor, enjoying our famous Thursday morning brunch and making unique friendships that will last a lifetime will still be the essence of Manitou 2021.
Manitou is a family, and in tough times families support each other and create silver linings to deal with adversity. We have one incredible family to make that happen!
-Mark, Jeff, Jen, Alec and Melissa