I'm writing as we experience a surge in Covid with omicron. This variant seems to be much more contagious than the previous, but less severe in symptoms. So we're getting a lot of cases, but those affected aren't as sick as those with the earlier variants and before the vaccine. So, the news could be worse.
With this reality we want to be as proactive as we can approaching camps and retreats, especially as summer approaches. First of all, we're recommending that we approach this summer with the intent of having 'in person' camps. It's possible that this might be taken from us by other pandemic related issues. But it's also possible that this surge will lead us closer to a herd immunity that will make camps (with precautions and masks) possible. So we recommend you be prepared for the best case, that camps will happen in person!
In the meantime, let's commit to doing our research as far as safety precautions with testing, vaccination understandings, and masks. This will mean extra work on our part. But its important to work that leads to the life-changing experience of camp. We have a wealth of resources to pull from. We can rarely ensure full safety, but our best approach is to follow the recommendations of the authorities around us. With good processes we should be able to set good recommendations for summer camp testing, masks, etc... by early May.
Our highest authority is the CDC and you can find their recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/guidance.html. Another authority is the American Camping Association and their recommendations, https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/coronavirus-information-camps. We should also stay in contact with our sites. They will have their procedures as safety will be a high concern for them as well. In the case of Lodestar and Monte Toyon, UCCR has been working with the different groups to create a safety approach that is comfortable for the visiting group. Again, a good reason to stay in contact with your site. Finally, check with the legal restrictions of the city or county of the site. Most probably, the site director will be fully aware of these. Above all else, do your best to keep campers as safe as we can in this unique time.
We know that many families will be hesitant to send their children and youth away to camp. But we are also hearing that our society is experiencing a 'social withdrawal' and are very eager to get back to engaging with others in the safest ways possible. Let's be prepared for these folks!
Patricia Parfett, Chair, BCRM
Rev. Darren Cowdrey, Interim Director, Camping and Retreat Ministries