We work hard to make sure every detail is in place so each camper can have the time of their life—every single summer.
As we continue to live in the time of COVID, there are more details than ever! Last summer, we made significant upgrades to both our program and facilities to give campers the best, most fun, and safest possible camp experience … and hundreds of happy campers (and parents) thanked us for it! Following is some of what we shared prior to last summer; as we look forward to Summer 2022, we promise to stick to our value of transparency as we keep families updated on any necessary COVID protocols.
Here’s what we said before last summer…
As we count down to Summer 2021, we’re hard at work planning for our best season yet … which, of course, will look different from any other summer we’ve experienced. (Don’t worry: all the important stuff – like being a place where kids can be fully themselves – will be just the same as always!) We know you have lots of questions about how COVID-19 will impact the camp experience. We hope this page will help answer some of those questions.
- Great Minds: We have convened an incredibly talented, experienced, and insightful group of epidemiologists, pediatricians, nurses, public health officials, emergency planners, mental health professionals, and other parents and alumni to help guide us. Supported by resources from the American Camp Association, Foundation for Jewish Camp, and local health authorities, this COVID-19 Task Force is bringing the best science, medicine, and community practice to bear as we plan for the summer.
- Swiss Cheese: We love cheese … but this is really about the “Swiss Cheese Respiratory Pandemic Defense.” Think of it like this: just like a piece of Swiss cheese has holes, so too does any single layer of pandemic defense. The way to be most successful is to have a number of interventions, so that it’s harder for things to fall through the holes. If you’re a visual learner like us, here’s an image:
- Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions: Camps that operated successfully last summer note that their success was due in large part to what they have called “non-pharmaceutical interventions,” including wearing masks, physical distancing, and primarily being outside. All of our plans use these three interventions as a starting point.
- Vaccines: Given the sometimes slow and often inequitable ways early vaccine distribution rolled out across the country (let alone the world!), we determined earlier this spring that it would be unrealistic to require staff or campers to receive a COVID vaccine prior to the summer. As the process has improved, and especially now with the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12+, our expectation is that the vast majority of our eligible campers and staff will in fact be vaccinated. For a variety of logistical reasons, it’s not feasible for us to change course and require vaccination at this late date – but, like the CDC, we are strongly encouraging it.
- Work in Progress: Even as we’re putting lots of plans in place for how things will run this summer, we recognize that the trajectory of the pandemic is ever-changing and, as such, we know things will continue to shift and change. We’ll do all we can to make these transitions as easy as possible; we know that communication is key, and we promise to keep families posted as things progress.
- Be Careful: In the two weeks leading up to campers’ arrival at Camp, we’ll ask families to follow CDC guidelines on masking and physical distancing – and to complete a daily online check-in. We know kids are in school, parents are at work, day camps are opening, and families are making travel plans … and we don’t plan to stand in the way. The safety of the Camp community depends on each one of us doing our part, and we thank families in advance for taking this to heart.
- COVID Tests: All campers must have a negative COVID test prior to arrival; we are working with an external firm to facilitate this process and make it as seamless as possible for families. Upon arrival, we will conduct a rapid test — and then we will do one more PCR test of all campers and staff approximately one week into the session. Presuming those last tests come back negative, we anticipate having pods interact more – although still outside and with masks on.
- Air Travel: For campers arriving by air, we’ll ask parents or guardians to arrange for an additional COVID test within 72 hours of the flight. Results must be provided to us 24 hours before arrival. We also highly recommend that families have an emergency contact within driving distance of Camp, who could pick up their camper if needed – including if they are found to have COVID upon arrival.
- Community Covenant: We often say that we stand up for ourselves and our friends, take responsibility for our actions, and understand the part each of us plays in creating a joyful and welcoming community. Before the summer, we’ll ask every community member – including campers, parents, and staff – to sign a pledge that binds us together in this shared purpose, and a commitment to keep one another healthy and safe.
- Pods: Each cabin will be designated as its own pod, or “household cohort” … and most programming will be done with that core group. (Based on community health, testing, and prevailing medical guidance, we hope to be able to grow pod size over the course of the session.) Knowing that cross-cabin friendships are a central part of the Havaya experience, we’re working hard to find ways to facilitate those connections in responsible and safe ways.
- It’ll Be Different: Without a doubt, things will be different this summer. For example: instead of eating all together in the Hadar Okhel (Dining Hall), we’ll have multiple seatings … and we won’t be able to have our amazing salad bar. And instead of all hanging out together on Saturday afternoons, we’ll celebrate Shabbat in smaller groups. But even as things change, the core will still be the same: no matter what, we’ll always be all about the joy of summer camp with the freedom to be who you truly are.
- Masks: Based on guidance from the CDC, we don’t anticipate campers will have to wear masks when only with the other members of their cabin. Given that many activities this summer will be done with this “household cohort,” this means that we currently expect much of the day to be unmasked. Having said this, the CDC is clear (and so are we!) that there are a number of instances when it will be appropriate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals to wear masks – including when interacting with groups outside of the cabin (whether inside or outside) and even potentially, if health and safety requires, for a period of time within the cabin. The CDC recommends masks should have three or more layers of washable, breathable fabric; completely cover the nose and mouth; fit snugly against the sides of the face and not have gaps; and ideally have a nose wire to prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask. Masks should not have exhalation valves or vents; be neck gaiters; or be those intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators.
- Day-to-Day: Worry not – camp will still be camp this summer! Campers will swim and go boating, play sports (with more opportunities to choose what they play!), create beautiful artwork, spend time at the farm, fly down the zipline, choose breirot (electives), and more. While we won’t get to do some of the off-campus activities we love (like pontooning or field trips), we’ll still have the on-campus programs campers look forward to every summer – from International Day to Camp Sing to fireworks for July 4th. We’ve changed up the daily schedule to allow time between activities to clean and disinfect shared materials, and to ensure that pods are appropriately distanced. And we’ve even figured out how teens in Harim can sleep a little later!
- Virtual Connections: In the past, we’ve had an incredible group of rabbis, cantors, educators, artists, musicians, program providers, and other visitors spend time on-site with us at Camp Havaya. This year, most of these visitors will join us virtually. (We’ll still have our volunteer doctors with us in-person!) Over these past many months, we’ve all found ways to connect in real-time with those hundreds and thousands of miles away – and we’re excited for the ways technology can help us stay in touch with rabbis and movement leaders, introduce campers to changemakers around the world, and link up with communities near and far … all from our pretty place in the Poconos.
- Community at the Core: In all our planning, we’re keeping two things in mind: the need to keep our campers and staff healthy (which means a level of physical distance) … and the need to connect them with each other. Suffice it to say, we’re working hard to make sure Friday night dancing, sitting around the campfire in the Eco-Village, services in the beit tefillah (outdoor chapel), and all-camp programs still have the energy, ruakh (spirit), and sense of community that are central to the Havaya experience.
- Outdoor Spaces: All the experts tell us that we should be outside as much as possible this summer. We’re putting an awning over the Dining Hall porch to give us more space to eat outside, buying tents so smaller groups can gather out of the sun and rain, and rethinking how we can make best use of the pavilions across camp. It’s summer camp, after all, and we’re excited to breathe in that fresh mountain air!
- Air Quality: Of course, it’s not always possible to be outside. We’ll be keeping windows open, purchasing fans, and bringing in HEPA filters to help circulate air in camper cabins. And for those incredibly hot days – and those occasional summer downpours – we’re installing air conditioning, with UV filtration, in the Hadar Okhel (Dining Hall) to help enhance airflow in this central building.
- Small Changes, Big Impact: They say not to sweat the small stuff, but that’s exactly what we’re doing! We’re buying new washing machines and dryers to launder masks multiple times throughout the week. New golf carts will help nurses travel across camp to check-in with campers, rather than taking kids away from program to walk to the Mirpa’ah (Wellness Center). And say “goodbye” to the big orange water coolers and plastic cups … and “hello” to new hands-free water bottle fillers!
- International Staff: For many of our campers, one of the best parts of summer is meeting counselors and other staff from around the world. We’re working closely with our staffing partners to ensure our international staff members can receive visas – as well as any necessary testing and available vaccines – before camp starts. Currently, we are monitoring guidelines set by the CDC and the US State Department, and we’ll continue to do so as the summer approaches. Needless to say, we’re committed to ensuring that all our staff – whether from the US or abroad – are healthy, trained, and ready to make the magic of camp come alive for our campers.
- Staff Support: We often tell staff members that working at camp is one of the hardest jobs they’ll ever have … and also one of the most rewarding. So many of those rewards are intangible, but this summer we want to be sure our staff feel our gratitude in real and meaningful ways. We’re planning for a staff canteen with snacks and special nighttime treats; fun staff-only activities and on-site opportunities for days off; and places to relax, work out, and connect with each other away from the busy-ness of camp. We have an amazing group of staff members assembled for this summer and we can’t wait to shower them with love and support – just as they do for all of our kids!
The science and community health recommendations around COVID continue to evolve quickly. Guided by our COVID-19 Task Force, we continue to monitor these shifts and update our plans accordingly. As we do, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with any questions you have along the way; we can’t wait to hear from you … and to have your kids with us for a wonderful, safe, healthy, and fun summer at Camp Havaya!
(Updated — June 2021)