Safe Summer: What schools can learn from camp COVID safety

Outbreaks have plagued camps nationwide, while others have had zero cases
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jul 26, 2021

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. — Before schools get back in session this fall, camps are giving them a pretty good idea of what they’re in for. Camps have had varying protocols, and varying success nationwide with keeping kids safe.

Last week in Iowa, a camp there sent home 200 campers after a counselor tested positive. A camp in New York state had 31 campers test positive after an outbreak. Even KidVenture, the city camp in Battle Creek shut down briefly last week after a single counselor contracted the virus.

Van Buren Youth Camp hasn’t had a single case. Director Dottie Myers-Hill says their staff is vaccinated, and campers are required to wear masks each day.

“I take it really personally,” said Myers-Hill, who’s been at the camp since 1982. “I feel like every kid here is my responsibility and so it’s my responsibility to make sure they go home safe.”

Van Buren Youth has cut down on numbers – by half this summer – and is keeping kids in cohorts similar to what they likely experienced in classrooms this spring. And Myers-Hill says school should be looking to camps to see what is working, and what isn’t.

“I think that if kids are doing well here,” she said. “If they have to wear a mask when they go back to school, when they’re in the classroom, they’re going to be fine with it.”

It wasn’t a tough decision to stay masked up for another summer, Myers-Hill simply asked the staff what they wanted to do.

“None of the staff felt comfortable taking masks away and so the conversations were really simple. It was, ‘this is what we promised,’” she said, referencing a letter she sent home to parents at the beginning of the summer. “Not a single person replied to that with a negative like, ‘how dare you, it’s silly.’ They just, most of them were just like thank you so much for standing your ground. We appreciate that you’re taking that extra step for our kids.”