BOSTON—Swimming, tennis, arts and crafts; all simple things that, today, carry a huge risk behind them. COVID-19 has ripped many kids away from their second home: overnight camp. However, for the brave few camp owners, summer will not be stopped. Although, opening their cabin doors is a risk that could potentially cost lives.
In the United States, COVID-19 cases are soaring beyond belief, which has led many summer activities to be canceled. Out of the over one hundred camps in Maine, 89 percent closed, but some don’t want to drop their summer traditions. Overnight camps like Camp Wekeela, Camp Fernwood and Camp Moden have all stuck it through and opened despite the risk. All these camps are located in Maine, which as of July 20, had 3,200 confirmed cases, one of the states with the lowest number. People are anxiously awaiting the end of camp to see if the cases go up from the sudden arrival of so many attendees.
Camp Wekeela’s view over the water.
Dr. Matthew Weiss, the doctor at Camp Wekeela was able to speak about his experiences working in a pandemic, saying he felt worried about the camp’s opening. At the time, “testing wasn’t widely available,” so he wasn’t sure it could be done safely. Dr. Weiss labeled Wekeela’s response to COVID-19 as “responsible,” and “handled very well.” He explained how the camp tested everyone two weeks before it opened and the day they arrived. Despite the careful and detailed testing, he shared how he was worried about “essentially helping something happen that might cause harm to people and was worried about being complicit in that.” He also talked about the fact that he will not have to worry about the shortage of tests since they “have a testing laboratory here in the nurse’s office with our own testing machine and all the swabs, chemicals and the supplies you would need to do the testing. So, we are very lucky in that regard.”
Camp Wekeela is halfway into their summer and 100 percent of attendees have tested negative for the virus. They have proceeded to continue camp as normal, Corona free.
Hudson, the Weiss’s dog, also attended camp this summer. E is having a great time, including getting to know the goats! Photo provided by Dr. Weiss.
One of his two daughters, Zoe Weiss, is attending the camp this summer and shared her thoughts about how this year compares to the four years she has been before. “When we first arrived, we got tested and had to quarantine with our bunks for about a week and wore masks during all camp activities. Afterwards, we could almost act as if it were a normal summer.”
She also wrote about her response to camps opening this year. She “wasn’t very afraid, but surprised” and explained how she didn’t think it was possible to have a whole group of negative people. Zoe thought that everyone would have to go home within the first week. She says she is having a “fun, normal summer!”
Unlike the successful summer Camp Wekeela is having, other camps aren’t as lucky. Kanakuk Camp in Lampe, Missouri planned to open at the start of July. When the campers and staff got tested on July 3, 49 positive cases were announced. Three days later, the number rocketed to 82, leaving the camp no choice but to close down.
Even though half of the camp tested positive for the virus, they are planning to reopen later this month. Unfortunately, this is not the only place this has happened. Overnight camps in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee have experienced similar situations.
The summer isn’t over yet and we’ll have to see where the days take overnight camps and their fight against COVID-19. The whole country is tuning in to see where the summer ends up and if these camps’ fates help us understand what is safest for the start of school in September.