Shalom Ramah Families,I’m writing to update you on the COVID situation in camp and share with you our evolving response. I appreciate very much the notes of support I have received from many of you and I know that COVID brings many things, including anxiety, and that is understandable too. The health and safety of our camp community is critical to all of us and we are working round the clock to make sure kids are safe and also having a fantastical and magical experience. There are two things that are simultaneously true: 1) the vast majority of campers and staff are having a great experience, and 2) this variant of COVID is in camp and is very contagious. We have spent many months planning and thinking through our approach and response and we also know that in a camp setting we will have to be flexible and nimble to respond to all the external and internal factors that come our way. We believe that camp is great for kids and we want to create the best and fullest experience for the most people we can. Our policies are made in consultation with the National Ramah medical committee, our medical director, medical staff at camp and our senior leadership. POLICY UPDATE For those of you who don’t like to read long emails here are the two policy changes we are making:
- We are requiring that campers who contract COVID and live within driving distance of camp go home to recuperate. We will evaluate every day if we need to continue this policy and also when a child can return. This will depend on many factors but mainly on COVID census and how it impacts our MARP and housing.
- In order to maximize the amount of time campers get to experience camp and in recognition that COVID is in camp, we are instituting the following policy change in Machon and anticipate using similar criteria in other edot/bunks when/if the COVID numbers are high enough that it is reasonably clear that all campers in the edah/bunk have already been exposed. It has become apparent, based on timing and extent of spread, that exposures are taking place before symptoms appear and/or the test is positive. Isolation for days 6-9, therefore, have minimal benefit in this scenario.
Edpletman@campramahne.org. We have a large and capable nursing staff, but more help would be great. We are all in this together. We are trying to be responsive to everyone and provide great care for our kids. It is a massive undertaking and one that I feel is critically important to our children. It may take a little longer for us to respond to questions as we are out in the field working. I, and the staff, will do our best to respond as quickly as possible. Camp is truly magical and fantastical. Our kids need camp. Shabbat is going to be great and the friendships, growth and joy are truly worth it. Shabbat Shalom and Todah Rabbah, Rabbi Ed Gelb (He/Him/His) CEO, Ramah New EnglandTherefore, for Machon only (at this point): On day six, our medical staff will evaluate the camper and if they are fever free, feeling good and able to participate in the camp program they will be allowed to return to live in their bunks and fully participate while remaining masked unless sleeping, eating, showering or swimming. They will mask until they test negative or day nine, whichever comes first. COVID at Camp Having COVID is different for everyone and I want to describe as accurately as possible what campers and staff are experiencing. Around twenty percent of those who have COVID have flu-like symptoms and a fever for 0-2 days. Another twenty percent have more of a bad cold for a few days. Probably around sixty percent have more mild cold symptoms. The vast majority feel a lot better after three days and almost everyone does by day five. Most of our day five and after campers can really handle a typical camp day or need just a little more rest. At this time the largest number of cases are in Machon, there are other cases on tzad bet and there are about 15 active cases on tzad alef. Our mitigation efforts for COVID positive campers at camp are to have campers and staff with COVID live in isolated “COVID” housing with their own programming. On days five through day eight they can join, masked, their regular edah programming but eat and sleep separately. Other mitigation efforts include eating and doing as many activities as possible outside. We are not doing tzad-wide or camp-wide activities indoors. Why are we not masking healthy campers? Healthy campers would have to wear a KN95 mask properly to have a reasonable amount of protection. We think that wearing that at camp would fundamentally change the camp experience. It is really uncomfortable, many kids are bad at wearing them properly and nagging them constantly is demoralizing to campers and staff alike. The time where kids are together inside is almost always in their bunks. In addition, residential camps that have instituted more aggressive masking policies are experiencing similar COVID surges in their camps. Why are we not doing more rounds of surveillance testing? Campers and staff come to the MARP to be tested when they feel sick or are anxious that they have COVID. We are testing a lot of campers every day. Surveillance testing for 850 people takes tremendous human resources, adds incredible anxiety to campers and staff alike and just grinds normal camp operations to a halt. COVID is in camp and I don’t think we are going to eradicate it during this session. COVID Housing Our COVID housing response is evolving. Campers who are actively sick and need more medical attention are housed in the MARP. This is one of the trickier parts of dealing with COVID. We need to have room both for campers with COVID and for those who may be sick but don’t have COVID and we need to keep them separate. We have very few kids without COVID in the MARP but they still need care and are separate. This is one reason, for the time being, we are sending campers home who live within driving distance. We have been using two separate B-Side bunks for housing and have mostly Machon campers living there. We are phasing that housing out for several reasons, including that soon many Machon campers will be returning to camp programming and that centralizing housing near the MARP makes it much easier to care, supervise and program for COVID campers. We have converted the Bet Am Bet, which is directly next to the MARP, into dormitory style COVID camper housing and have been using it for a few days. Although it is not the “Ritz Carlton,” it is working quite well and the kids are having fun with it. What Can You Do to Help? If you are a nurse and would be willing to come for a few days, weekend or more to help, please contact Ed Pletman at