Camps expect more “normal” operations this year – Orange County Register
Camp operators in Orange County – and across the country – are feeling more optimistic this spring that they will be able to provide children with a more “normal” camp experience this summer after two years of disruption. by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From what we’re seeing, there’s incredible demand. We are seeing exceptional registrations for camps in the summer of 2022,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, a national organization that conducts camp research and is the only independent national body camp accreditation. “The camps try to grow as much as they can. So many kids want to go to camp.
After the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020 declared COVID-19 – the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus – a pandemic, camps across the country were hit with shock waves. Only 18 to 20 percent of overnight camps nationwide were able to operate that summer, and only 60 percent of day camps were open, Rosenberg said. Some states didn’t allow overnight camps to operate at all that summer, and neither did most counties in California, he said. As a result, many children stayed home and could not go to school.
Public health authorities knew more about the virus in the summer of 2021. Testing was available and camps were better prepared. All 50 states have allowed night and day camps to operate, and most have operated to some extent, many with limitations. Camps have used a range of mitigation strategies to keep the virus at bay, including deeper cleaning, placing campers in small groups or “cohorts”, virus testing or pre-screening, and l use of masking and physical distancing, Rosenberg said. When done consistently, he said, these efforts have made camps safe and campers once again able to enjoy a positive in-person camp experience.
As summer 2022 approaches, demand for summer camps is back, vaccines are available, and camps are ready to welcome campers.
“It should be a great summer for our kids to get their wellness back,” Rosenberg said, adding that attending camp will help families deal with “COVID fatigue.” Even though campers have to wear masks, Rosenberg said, they’ll “have fun.” This summer also provides a great opportunity for teens and young adults to work in camp and achieve a sense of normalcy they also need, he said.
Overall, with tests widely available and vaccines now in the mix, summer camp should feel pretty normal, Rosenberg said. Local camp owners think so too, including Kim Esmond, owner of OC Dance Productions, a company that offers a variety of dance programs and camps in cities across Orange County. Esmond noted that this is the first summer of the pandemic where children can be vaccinated, giving parents more confidence that their children will be fine. “This part is really going to help.”
Esmond also pointed out that the children have been attending school in person throughout this school year, in close proximity to other children, so many parents feel there is little difference between sending their child to school. in-person school and send their child to dance camp.
“In summer, there are also fewer viruses,” she added.
Camping businesses and vendors will likely have some restrictions this summer, such as having to follow cleaning or mask protocols set by the cities in which they operate, Esmond said. Rules on masking will vary by city — “it’s their call,” she said — and mask policies could change by summer. Esmond said staff members and campers do not need to be vaccinated to attend OC Dance Productions dance camps.
Justin Taylor, owner of Firestorm Ultra in Westminster, a children’s gym that offers tumbling, Ninja Warrior camp, aerial skills, trampoline and other activities, plans to hold his regular camps for six weeks this summer for children aged 4 to 14. He doesn’t expect his camps to be greatly impacted by the virus this year and he expects a fun and busy summer camp season. Taylor said the Firestorm Ultra camps were busy last summer, after the children spent the school year in isolation at home.
“The parents were almost done. They wanted their children out. The children had spent so much time indoors, in front of screens. A lot of them hadn’t used their bodies and that’s what we’re looking for,” Taylor said.
Children do not need to be vaccinated to attend Firestorm Ultra, but currently staff members and unvaccinated children are required to wear a mask; the gymnasium works with charter schools and receives federal funding, so the government requires it, he said. The mask rule could change by summer, Taylor noted. Firestorm Ultra asks people not to enter if a family member is sick.
The virus has had a major impact on the Palette Station visual art program in Santa Ana, which also offers summer camps. When the pandemic hit, owner Ray Kubit closed Palette Station for 15 months beginning March 17, 2020. His commercial lease was in effect that year in June, so Kubit let him go, and in early June 2021, he reopened Palette Station in a new location in Santa Ana.
Kubit plans to hold visual arts camps this summer at the new location for children ages 5 to 12. He said his staff are vaccinated and reinforced to bring after-school programs to Tustin elementary schools, and his indoor studio has a medical-grade air filtration system. Campers don’t need to be vaccinated, Kubit said, and he doesn’t yet know what the summer camp mask policy will be.
Kubit also expects a good summer camp season.
“It looks like things are starting to return to a more normal pattern,” he said. Kubit said parents are more comfortable now “doing more than just take their kids to school,” and kids have been missing out on extra activities. “I’m happy to see him back,” he said.
For more information
Visit the American Camp Association at acacamps.org to find a camp, research camp financial assistance, and check if the camp is ACA accredited.