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COVID-19 and Camp Westminster

One of my favorite aspects of camp is how we learn to take care of each other. Each week a new group of campers forms and gets to practice living in community together. Camp Westminster is a place where we experiment with community; learning to care for each other is a big part of that. Like any skill, it takes practice.

We have all had a lot of opportunities to practice care for each other since the arrival of COVID-19. Masks, remote meetings, and vaccinations are all chances to protect our own health and the health of those around us.

In 2020, Camp Westminster essentially canceled our summer programs. 2021 saw us return to summer programming, yet not without challenges and significant changes to our program. 2022 will be different again.

Provisional COVID-19 Policy

Two weeks ago (at the beginning of February), Camp Westminster’s advisory committee approved a provisional COVID-19 policy that fits our values of service and mutual care. This policy was written with three priorities in mind:

  1. Prevent illness and severe disease both during the summer camp session and carried back home by campers;

  2. Minimize program disruptions due to mitigation practices or incidents of COVID-19 exposure; and,

  3. Offer campers as much of a respite from the pandemic as is safely possible.

We created a progressive plan that allows for levels of mitigation at different levels of community spread. The full details of which are available here.

Vaccinations Required

This summer, all campers, staff, and anyone who comes into contact with them will need to be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. Additionally, everyone will need to show a negative PCR test or take a rapid test upon arrival at camp. Exceptions are allowed for anyone who cannot receive a vaccine for medical reasons. For the medically exempt and those who do not have a robust immune response to the vaccine, we provide a safer experience when everyone else is vaccinated.

With these measures, we mean to create a COVID safe zone. Vaccinated people are less likely to contract and spread the disease; testing everyone before they enter camp will help us screen against people who may carry the virus without symptoms. Having a COVID safe zone means that, with low levels of community spread, we can party like it’s 2019!

Vaccinations also help us if there is illness or exposure to COVID-19 at camp. The CDC recommends that vaccinated individuals who are exposed should wear a mask and get tested without the need for isolation. Unvaccinated individuals need to isolate for ten days. If an unvaccinated camper were exposed to COVID-19 at camp (or even at home before camp), they would not be able to return to the summer program.

We are adding steps to our summer registration system to inform families of this policy and let them submit proof of vaccination.

The pandemic is changing, our response will change as well

When we adopted this policy, the state of Michigan was just starting to come down from its peak of 235 people infected per hundred thousand. As I write this today, we are at 36 per hundred thousand. Oakland County (where I live) has just lifted its mask mandate, and we just received word that schools are lifting their mask requirement at the end of the month.

I would love nothing more than to tear up this COVID plan and burn all my masks in a pool of hand sanitizer, but I have a feeling that this is not over. As the summer approaches, we expect the CDC to release new summer camps recommendations. We will also see what post-Omicron COVID looks like in our communities. These, plus recommendations from the state, the American Camping Association, and our continuing prayer and discernment on these issues, will guide us.

I can tell you with certainty that the Camp Westminster community will take care of each other, especially the most vulnerable for whom this pandemic has been uniquely challenging. We are excited to come together for another summer of discovery where we learn to live in community!


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