Updated 2023 Ramah Covid Policies

Shalom Ramah Families,This letter shares our 2023 COVID policies for Palmer overnight camp including an updated/changed bivalent booster policy, our vaccine requirement, and our plans for operating camp. Our goal, as always, is to provide a healthy and safe camp experience. Additionally, we want to run camp this summer with as little disruption due to COVID as possible. We also know that all policies and procedures may change as conditions evolve. Our professional staff and medical team have been working together to craft a policy that is medically sound and works for our residential camp setting. Dr. Michael Agus is the chair of our Medical Committee and serves on our board’s Executive Committee. Laura Berger, RN, is our new year-round Nurse Director. You can read more about them here and hereCamp is a different environment than home and school. We are a close community of approximately 850 people at a time and campers live in close quarters in bunks. We have campers and staff with varied health needs and challenges. For this reason, we require the initial COVID vaccination series and strongly recommend one bivalent booster prior to camp. Our strong recommendation for the bivalent booster is a change from our original announcement and is supported by the now amended National Ramah Medical Committee policy. Although we believe that receiving the bivalent booster is the best choice for all campers and staff, we do not feel that we can make it a requirement as the vast majority of overnight camps across the northeast and the US are not doing so, and neither is it a requirement in our schools. We feel our policy must fit in the range of the camping industry standard and we believe that this is a safe and reasonable standard. According to our medical team, the greatest benefit of the current booster is to the person who receives it (in terms of preventing both acute COVID and long COVID), and the greatest risk of declining the booster is similarly personal. This is in contrast to the situation earlier in the pandemic when individuals who were not current with their vaccinations contributed substantially to the risk for the entire community. Once we are at camp, and because COVID is no longer as serious a threat as it once was, we want our campers and staff to be able to fully enjoy camp and for COVID to not be a part of our daily experience. We will be asking everyone to test prior to camp so that we don’t have COVID positive campers coming to camp. After that, we will not be testing (except as noted below) or masking at camp. For all sorts of illnesses, our general approach is that we have established criteria for when campers and staff need to be admitted (i.e., stay overnight) into our health center (the MARP). Generally, this is when they have a fever, have significant cold symptoms or are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting. If a camper is admitted into the MARP and stays overnight, we inform the parents. When these symptoms resolve, the camper returns to the camp program. Occasionally, campers have symptoms that require us to take them to an urgent care center or to an emergency room. If a camper’s symptoms dictate this and the medical professionals at the facility determine that a COVID test is warranted to choose a treatment course, they would perform the test and proceed accordingly. This approach allows our medical staff to treat campers based on current and best medical practices. It also reduces campers’ anxiety about whether to be tested or whether someone they know has COVID. If you are healthy enough and able to participate in camp, then you can. If you are ill you can’t, and then you would be treated like anyone who is ill at camp. With the adoption of these policies, we expect to return to the usual situation at camp where the need to go home due to a medical reason is a very rare event, and based on the child’s medical condition and care requirements, not on a COVID test. In addition, we will not need to run a parallel “Covid camp.” For anyone interested, we will offer a Zoom meeting with Dr. Agus, Laura Berger, Rabbi Gelb and members of our senior team after Passover. We will send out the date and time as camp approaches. We are looking forward to a joyous summer at camp – filled with friends, laughter, learning and fun! ,כל טוב (all the best)Rabbi Ed Gelb (He/Him)                                    Elizabeth Waksman (She/Her)CEO, Ramah New England                               President, Ramah New England

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