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May 15, 2022 UPDATE:

2022 Covid-19 Guidebook

January 20, 2022

Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, one thing has been clear. We all are clamoring for a sense of normal. As we look ahead to the summer of 2022, with our goal of conducting summer sessions that move us forward toward this aim and remain safe and healthy, we have made the decision to require vaccination against COVID19 for all campers and staff.

We have learned a tremendous amount in the 22 months since we suspended our 2020 season and did not operate. We have learned about the virus and the way it spreads. We have learned about the importance and effectiveness of taking a few simple steps to prevent transmission and spread. We have also learned about the importance of keeping our camp community safe and healthy for all. We believe not to take advantage of every tool available would be negligent. As a residential community of varying ages, constitutions, and conditions, we have an extra responsibility that exceeds requirements of day or short-term programs.

Other considerations include:

  • Eliminate potential for 2 sets of procedures and programs for vaccinated or unvaccinated campers and staff
  • Greatly increase the likelihood that any positive case will be mild
  • Provide for less restrictive quarantining upon any exposure
  • Greatly decrease the likelihood that emergency care needs to be accessed (in a rural hospital setting that is already taxed)
  • Safer interactions with public during field trips and wilderness trips

Our charge each summer is to keep our community healthy, minimize known risk, anticipate unseen or unknown risk, and provide an experience for each child that is enriching and safe. We believe this decision supports our values and our goals.

Does this mean that Camp will be totally “normal” and operate just as it did in 2019? That is doubtful, and we will surely be implementing protocols, procedures, and practices that further support the health of our community. The good news is that this is not our first time doing this, and we learned from 2021 that we can run Camp Mishawaka and that kids are our best partners in creating this experience.

September 28, 2021

We Did It!

To date, Midwestern humility might have prevented us from celebrating the fact that we provided a healthy, happy, and safe summer camp experience this summer for nearly 300 children and 70 staff who came from over 25 states and 4 countries. The feat is not just ours to celebrate- credit goes to all who made it possible: The families who kept their kids healthy in the days before coming to Camp, the staff who arrived early and accepted limits and protocols that helped protect our Camp bubble, and most importantly, the campers themselves who made an investment in the experience and reaped the rewards of their work. It was an effort by the entire Camp Mishawaka community!

“Thank you for all of your hard work to provide a safe, almost normal, experience for the campers. It was a much-needed break from the covid world for them.”

We always felt that if we could get everyone here in good health, we could keep it that way. Without parents and kids following pre-camp protocols and limiting high-risk activities, things could have gone very differently. Without our staff understanding the need to put the needs of kids first and set aside some of their own social needs, we could have easily had an outbreak at Camp. Without campers understanding and complying with a few simple guidelines about how and when we interact as a large group, cabin groups may have been forced to quarantine. I can’t help but feel we were lucky, but maybe fortunate is a better word. We had worked to create plans to mitigate introduction and/or spread of the virus- even expecting we would encounter positive cases. It was more than luck, for sure, but as we worked in concert with our parents and staff we were reminded, again, just how fortunate we are to do this work.

A few years ago in a planning session, we identified a guiding principle for all that we do at Camp Mishawaka: Honoring the community and nourishing the individual. This summer, that guidepost took on even greater importance and delivered even greater rewards. We don’t know as I write this (September 2021) what Camp will look like next summer. Will the protocols and procedures that served us so well this summer still be needed? We just don’t know. What we do know is that even if Camp “looks” different, for these kids (and all of us who work here) Camp can feel the same.

We celebrate our accomplishment of running a safe, healthy, and happy summer camp 2021, but more importantly, we celebrate and honor all the folks that made it possible. They share in the success, the joy and communal fortification that we all feel from a job well done. We are a kid-focused community, dedicated to protecting and preserving childhood, and it’s nice to know that is can still be done- even in the midst of a pandemic.

“Really well done! I appreciate all of your efforts to make Camp as normal as possible and your determination to make appropriate, rational decisions during a difficult time. I also appreciate that you keep the traditions of Camp alive while being sensitive to social norms, especially morning reveille and nightly taps.”

May 16, 2021

May 1, 2021

The Minnesota Department of Health has issued final guidance for summer camps. We have a good sense of the requirements and recommendations, and we have provided the outline below. This is subject to modifications. A complete Guidebook will be shared as soon as it is finalized.

While there is much to be encouraged by, as the vaccination rate grows, the fact remains that the virus is still very prevalent. While the rate of weekly child infections is down from its all-time high of 215,000 in January, the case rate of child infection (as of 4/22/21) is nearly 8 times the rate of last year when Camp did not open. With this in mind, we must all take extra precautions to ensure the health of our community.

Pre Camp

  • Campers, even those who are vaccinated, should quarantine for 10 days prior to coming to Camp, taking all precautions to avoid high risk activities and potential exposures. This includes indoor dining, large gatherings, movies and concerts.
  • Campers will need to submit proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test prior to arrival at Camp. This test sample should be taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, but not more than 5 days. After test results are received, campers should be extra vigilant to avoid any unnecessary exposures.
  • Campers 12 years of age or older who are fully vaccinated do not need to submit a test result. They will need to provide proof of vaccination.
  • Campers who have had a diagnosed case of COVID-19 within 90 days of the session start date do not need to submit a test result. They will need to submit a Dr.’s letter attesting to the day of infection.
  • Campers who have a current infection, or are 10 days or fewer from diagnosis, should not come to Camp.
  • Every effort will be made to place a camper who tests positive in another session.
  • Campers who test positive, or have an active infection prior to Camp, may be able to enter the session late. This would be the only situation that would allow for a late arrival.

Travel

  • When at all possible, campers should arrive to Mishawaka by car. Drop off will be streamlined. We will not be able to offer tours that day.
  • Campers arriving by car will undergo an initial health screening for COVID symptoms. Symptomatic campers will not be admitted to Camp.
  • Campers travelling by plane should follow all necessary guidelines for air travel, including double masking, refraining from eating or drinking on the plane or other areas where they are not able to distance.
  • Campers will be met at the gate of arrival and continue on to Camp via chartered coach. Campers will need to be masked and distanced for the duration of the bus ride. Members of the same household can be seated together.
  • Prior to boarding the bus, campers will undergo an initial health screening. Those campers exhibiting symptoms of COVD-19 will be transported to Camp via van and be tested upon arrival. Symptomatic campers will be isolated until such time as test results are obtained.

Testing at Camp

  • Campers will be tested (shallow nasal swab) between days 3 and 5 after arrival. A second test may be administered.
  • Results will be communicated to parents from the provider. These results will also be released to us.
  • We are partnering with Essentia Health to provide our tests. Parents need to complete the registration and release forms 3 weeks prior to the start of the session.
  • We are planning on doing “pool testing” at the end of each two-week session to determine the health of our community.
  • A favorable result may allow us to expand our pods and interaction.

A Positive Test

  • Campers who test positive will be isolated in our designated cabins. Staff will attend to any campers in this situation.
  • An infected individual needs to remain in isolation for 10 days from a positive test result. The state of MN recommends that any positive campers return home as soon as possible.
  • We are prepared to house, take care of, and provide camp activities (as the camper is interested and able) for any infected camper.
  • We recognize that in some cases families may not be able to pick up the camper right away.
  • We will not be able to place an infected camper on a plane. If the isolation period extends beyond the dates of the camper session, we can extend the camper stay until such time as we can safely put them on a plane.

Camp Housing

  • Campers will be grouped in pods of 12 to 15 campers (two cabin groups.) These pods will function as a family unit- not needing to mask when together.
  • When pods interact with each other, two of three conditions will need to be met: masked, distanced, or outside.
  • Counselors will conduct daily health checks with their cabin groups.
  • Pods will be grouped by age and grade. Every effort will be made to accommodate cabin mate requests (1 mutual request as outlined on the request form.)
  • Pods may expand as conditions and health permit.

Camp Program and Activities

  • All regular Camp activities will be able to run. There may need to be some modifications, but we plan on a full offering
  • For the 1st week of Camp, as we work to determine the health of our community and limit any potential infection, pods will do activities together.
  • Pods will rotate through a variety of core camp activities as well as a choice of varied other daily activities.
  • We recognize the importance of camper choice in programming and will strive to preserve this. Pods can and will come together for activities and events. When pods interact, two of three conditions will need to be met: Masked, Distanced, or Outside
  • All activities will take place outside whenever possible.
  • As we are able, and the health of the community is determined after the 1st week of Camp, pods may expand.

Dining

  • Campers will eat together with their pod
  • Meals will continue to be served family style
  • We will be offering numerous opportunities for picnics and outdoor cooking.

Sanitation, Hygiene, and Health Services

  • While we know now that the virus spreads via shared air, enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols will be in place for all campers and staff.
  • These practices will help preserve the general health of the Camp community.
  • Regular health needs will continue to be met by our health staff, including daily meds.
  • If a need arises to be seen by a physician in Grand Rapids, tele-health visits will be used whenever possible or feasible.
  • A regular shower schedule will be established to ensure that all campers are regularly bathing.

Find answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of our FAQs - these answers were last updated on 3/15/21.

Our protocols are reflective of one (or both) of two tenets: the requirements of the state of MN; and/or “Best Practices” as defined by the American Camp Association in their Field Guide for Summer Camps.

These guidelines and mandates are subject to update at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions

February 12

As we continue to work on our COVID-19 Playbook for the summer of 2021 - even amidst all the uncertainty - we are certain of several things.

  • The responsibility for protecting the health of our Camp community is a shared responsibility. Campers and families need to take part by making sure precautions are taken before arriving at Camp. Mishawaka needs to do its part by availing itself to all the best information and practices.
  • Camp can operate and do so in a way that promotes and preserves the health of the community.
  • Quarantining before Camp, not taking part in high-risk activities in the two weeks prior to the Camp session are the best way to ensure your camper arrives in good health.
  • There are proven steps that we can take to reduce the likelihood of any spread during Camp. These include layers of protections and precautions. These include moving activities outdoors whenever possible, operating in smaller cohorts, masking, and distancing. It also includes increased regular hygiene measures.
  • Creating a “bubble” can work to reduce risks.
  • Testing, pre-Camp and post-Camp, can play an important role in maintaining a healthy Camp community.
  • Camp may look different, but it can and must feel the same!

The other thing that is certain is that each of us have had our own experience with COVID-19. Many of us have had it, some have likely lost loved ones or been on the front line of response. Some of us, no doubt have had limited personal exposure. What is certain though is that, on so may levels, COVID-19 has effected how our children learn, play, connect and progress on the path to becoming a well-adjusted adult.

We remain certain that a Camp Mishawaka experience can help children move through this time in their lives, not just tread water. The partnership between Mishawaka, campers and parents is vital to making sure we preserve and protect childhood-and the put the health and developmental needs of kids first.

On March 14th we will be hosting a Zoom Q and A for current and prospective Camp families to discuss our summer plans. If you would like to be included, please send us an email so we can send you the link.

January 27, 2021

As we move forward to summer we do so with great enthusiasm, humility, and an overriding sense of obligation to our campers and camp families. There is still much to be revealed - from the state of Minnesota - as to the guidelines and requirements on how we will operate this summer, but the outline is broad and deep enough to make some assumptions on what the best practices will be.

Camp, and health experts, who have developed these protocols speak in terms of layering - layering of non-pharmacological interventions (NPI), layering of health and safety protocols at camp, and layering the communication with campers, families, and staff to ensure that we are all on the same page. All our efforts will be directed and conducting a healthy camp and community. The community is only as healthy as each of our individual members.

At Camp

Campers will be grouped in pods at the start of Camp. These will likely be groups of 12 to 15 kids and this group will function as a unit. Though we are waiting final guidance, current guidance reccommends 3 layers of protection - with 2 of them always met. These are: physical distancing, outside and masking. So, when outside and physical distanced, mask will not be required. When inside, when campers come together, we will rely on masks and distancing to reduce the air that we share.

We have purchased 12 event-style tents and intend on doing all our traditional activities that would normally take place indoors, outdoors under the cover of tents. There will be additional cleaning and sanitizing protocols in place, as well. From those camps that operated in 2020 we learned that they were able to all but eliminate any “regular” camp sicknesses.

We are working on our testing protocol (both pre-Camp and at Camp) and will be updating as summer draws near. There have been great advances in rapid tests. There is an effort at the national level to get camp counselors classified and “essential youth workers.” This will be a great help as we work to get as many staff as possible vaccinated.

Pre-Camp

In the week leading up to Camp we will be asking parents and campers not to engage in any high-risk activity (weddings, graduation celebrations, or other large group gatherings) and continue to follow your state’s guidelines, to ensure that everyone comes to Camp healthy. There will also likely be an element of testing, pre-arrival and upon arrival.

We all have likely had differing experiences with the COVID-19 virus. Some may have had limited exposure and, sadly, I am sure that many families have lost a family member or friend to the virus. Prior to Camp we will be surveying families on their history and experience as we look to better understand the individual needs of our campers.

I encourage you to follow the field guide for best camping practices that the American Camp Association has produced. We will use this document to create our final playbook. Also, the state MN has issued preliminary guidance for residential summer camps. You will note that some of this guidance are recommendations and others are requirements for operation.

Getting to Camp

When possible, we are recommending that parents drive their camper(s) to Camp for an in-person drop-off. We regret that we will not be able to offer the traditional welcome and Camp tour for those dropping off. Flying, when abiding by all safety protocols has been shown to be quite safe. We will meet campers at the gate of arrival at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and continue to Camp by coach. Flights with more than 10 campers we will endeavor to have a staff chaperone who accompanies the children. This avoids the necessity of kids flying as an Unaccompanied Minor ($150 each way). The cost of the chaperone’s ticket will be divided evenly between families.

There may be other modifications on our final travel plans relative to what we have done in the past. We will continue to update you as we gather those required and recommended guidelines.

As always, don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have questions or we can be of any help. Email us at or call/text my cell at 218-259-4853.

Stay safe and be well,

Steve

January 10, 2021

We have learned a lot from the camps that operated in 2020 and as we await final guidance from the state of MN, we continue to update our 2021 operational plan. Despite the good news of vaccines and other advances,it is clear that COVID-19 will be a central concern in our planning. Today, the guidelines for residential camps include masking, regular testing, social distancing and operating in pods for a period of time. These may change, but we do believe that it very likely that these measures will still be in effect when Camp starts.

Over the course of the upcoming months, we will be addressing these considerations in a monthly update. We anticipate finalizing operational plans by early May - taking advantage of as much time as we are able and taking advantage of any new treatments or interventions.

The outdoors and fresh air are proven to be one way to reduce the spread of this airborn virus, and we are excited to have lined up 12 event-style outdoor tents.

Just as we are planning for Camp, we are also planning for the journey to Camp. We will be forwarding travel information at the end of January. We are still gathering information from the airlines, the Minneapolis airport, and our travel agency on how best to ensure a healthy arrival at Camp.

More to come!

August 26, 2020

We have all heard about camp programs that operated this summer and were overrun with COVID-19, though we also know of several traditional residential camps that conducted healthy summer sessions, albeit their summers were different - pods, cohorts, masks, and a new approach to programming. As we learn from those camps that succeeded, follow what we all learn as schools return and science advances, we feel prepared to move ahead in 2021. We do so with equal measures of humility, passion, and possibility.

Things that may look different next year:

  • Campers quarantine at home 2 weeks prior to arrival
  • Pods - 2 cabin groups are treated as a pod
  • Activities - Pods will attend activities together, we may need to offer less options
  • Singing and cheering - only in pods
  • Bunks - head to foot placement
  • Masks when not in pods or when in transit from activities
  • Additional cleaning of all facilities
  • Picnic tables near cabins so pods can eat outdoors
  • Continental breakfast
  • Outdoor cooking
  • Transportation
  • Wilderness tripping

Things that will look the same:

  • Outdoors, Lake Pokegama, and no screens/phones/devices
  • Friendships and leadership development
  • Skills progression in activities (maybe a lot more in outdoor cooking!)
  • Letters from home
  • Awesome staff
  • Health, safety and happiness

May 15, 2020

It was my hope, mine and all of the staff, that today we would be able to announce with confidence that we would be able to proceed with summer sessions as planned, or perhaps shortened sessions. That is not the case. There is just too much uncertainty. The much-anticipated document from the American Camp Association (ACA) and CDC has been delayed, as well as final guidance from the state of Minnesota, but what we have seen (even if we are allowed to operate) would place severe restrictions on our ability to conduct Camp Mishawaka, as we all know it: Campers and staff in masks, social distancing, groups no larger than 50, travelling through the summer in pods of 20 campers and even an expected ban on singing in Camp.

It is with great sadness to announce that we have cancelled all summer sessions.

Every day, for the last eight-weeks, we have come to the office and worked to make summer happen for our campers. Every day, we started out with “we got this”- camp directors and staff are, by their nature, problem solvers. Inevitably, every day, we would also conclude that we couldn’t do this, and often that we shouldn’t do this. Guided by our top-line concerns of the Camp Mishawaka motto of Safety, Health and Happiness we realized that we were not in a position to confidently offer this to our campers and families. The guidelines we were getting would impede our ability to provide a Mishawaka experience that was familiar or rewarding to veteran campers, safe and welcoming to our new campers, or allow our staff to remain vibrant.

I have shared some more of our considerations in this short video.

To say that we are heartbroken is an understatement. We view our work with children as a vital service, and at this time, when children need a camp experience more than ever, we feel the calling more than ever. Julie and I have always asked ourselves, in assessing risk in our program, “would we let our own children do this?” In this case, our own inability to answer that question with a resounding “YES”, even as we recognize their need for normalcy, has brought us to this conclusion.

2020 Counselors-in-Training will be invited to return for this capstone experience in 2021. We will also be reaching out to them individually as I know this news will be particularly difficult for them.

Finally, let me say thank-you for the support and input we have received in the past two months. The messages of encouragement and thoughtfulness have been tremendous. We will continue to work to support our campers with contact throughout the summer, checking in with correspondence and encouragement. As the Camp song goes, “The Mishawaka spirit that our elder brothers (and sisters) knew, is the spirit that we know is here to stay.” That spirit, and our promise, live on, and we are all committed to a future that includes Camp Mishawaka. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Sincerely, Steve

April 5, 2020

We are committed to providing kids a Camp experience that they have looked forward to, and one that they will need more than ever, given the current circumstances. With each passing day that resolve strengthens, but also, with each passing day, we learn of new projections for just how deep and wide this virus will be, and we must acknowledge the possibility that we will not be permitted operate this summer.

Presently, camps are not permitted to operate in the state of Minnesota. This restriction is in place until the end of April, at which time we expect further guidance from state officials. If camps are given the green light to operate at that time, we will review our ability to conduct a safe camp experience- one that we have promised and our campers, and you, expect and deserve.

With that in mind, we are proposing the following timeline for decision making.

  • May 15th - Decide if we can conduct 1st half, and 1st two-weeks session, whether the state restrictions remain in place, or not. There may be some ability to transfer to the 2nd- half sessions and openings will be available based on the order of original enrollment date.
  • June 15th - Decide if we can conduct 2nd four-week and 2nd two-week session. Again, we would do so whether the state restrictions remain in place or not.
  • July 1st - Decide if can conduct 3rd two-week session. Again, we would do so whether the state restrictions remain in place or not.

With all our wishes for your health and safety,

Steve