After a year of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is only natural to be hesitant to send your Girl Scout off for a week at resident camp.
How can you be sure that they are social distancing? Will there be more than adequate hand hygiene in an outdoor environment? I won’t be there to make sure my Girl Scout is safe.
These are all valid concerns and we at Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida want to ensure you that we are doing everything possible to mitigate the risk and are preparing Camp Welaka and our camp staff for the safest and most amazing summer ever!
We will be spending a good portion of our pre-camp staff training to prepare our staff with the knowledge and policies to protect our camp community. Camp staff will be trained to identify common symptoms associated with COVID-19 quickly as well as contact tracing procedures to minimize spread of any possible cases. A large part of our training will revolve around instruction on our non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that will be in place to keep everyone safe. NPIs are the strategies put in place to reduce the possibility of a positive case of COVID-19.
Our NPIs will include the following:
- Before arriving to camp, we are requiring campers and staff to monitor and report any symptoms of COVID-19 for the 14 days preceding the camp session. A screening log will be provided in the camp paperwork to record this pre-screening and must be presented in order to check in for the session. When the campers and staff arrive at camp, the Healthcare Manager will be taking temperatures and asking the screening questions to each individual before allowing them to check-in. Our screening will continue throughout the camp session with daily health checks recorded in a log for each individual. Campers and staff returning for multiple sessions will be screened again at each return.
- Social distancing will be practiced as much as possible during our camp days. Some of our traditional camp activities will be modified to ensure adequate social distancing.
- Masks will be worn at all times by both campers and staff. Some exceptions will apply such as when campers are eating, sleeping, participating in water-based activities like swimming and canoeing or activities with increased physicality like running or hiking, and when campers or staff are more than six feet apart.
- Cleaning and sanitation of supplies and high touch surfaces will occur between groups and periodically throughout the day.
- Hand hygiene will occur before and after all activities as well as encouraged throughout the day utilizing both handwashing and hand sanitizer. Unit counselors will be teaching and reinforcing proper hand hygiene throughout the camp session.
- Campers and staff will interact with only their unit (group) throughout their camp session. This creates a pod atmosphere that has been supported by the CDC, as both a means for reducing the risk of positive cases, as well as ensuring accurate contact tracing for exposure if a positive case is identified. This will include eating their meals in their units outdoors under the unit pavilions. All-camp activities will be limited unless proper social distancing is achievable. An exception may be made to allow a staff member to join a different group to provide a required certification or experience with an activity, for example canoe training or animal tracking experience.
- We will be creating a quarantine/isolation cabin that will be supervised by our on-site Healthcare Manager for campers or staff that display symptoms. Once a camper or staff member has been identified as possibly having been exposed to COVID-19, they will be sent home from camp. We will provide a three-hour window for campers to be picked up, and during that time the camper will remain isolated from the general camp population to reduce the risk of further spread.
- GSSEF has updated our Communicable Disease Plan for resident camp and has procedures in place to ensure a smooth response to any possible or confirmed exposure to contagious diseases. Although updated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this plan has always been a part of camp policy for other communicable diseases such as influenza and strep throat.
Resident camp will look different this year than in previous years, but that’s OK! Resident camp will still provide our girls with the irreplaceable adventures that makes camp so dear to many of our hearts. This environment provides girls a safe space to try new things without the fear of failing, builds important life skills like independence and responsibility, and gives girls the opportunity to socialize with other girls their age. I could not imagine how different my life would have been if I had not attended resident camp as a Girl Scout. My days at summer camp helped spark my interest in so many of my hobbies like kayaking, hiking and environmental stewardship, as well as helping me secure the tools to be successful after high school like confidence, leadership and the value of planning, and even more importantly, backup planning.
After a year of virtual everything — from schooling to extracurricular activities — our Girl Scouts need time to unplug and be themselves in a different setting away from the screen. As hard as this pandemic has hit our adult community, it has hit our girls just as hard, if not harder. Since quarantine and embracing the virtual platform changed all of our lives, our girls need a chance to spread their wings to be kids again and resident camp is the best place for them to do it safely. We hope to see all our GSSEF girls drifting back to Welaka this summer!
Blog post written and provided by Kate Goosey, Outdoor Programs Manager for GSSEF.