We work hard to make sure every detail is in place so each camper can have the time of their life—every single summer.
This summer, in the midst of a global pandemic, there are more details than ever!
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 — which we’ll update regularly — 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: Even as we’re really excited that more and more members of our Camp community are receiving a COVID vaccine, we know that most campers – and some staff members – won’t be vaccinated in advance of the summer. So, for now, we don’t anticipate that vaccinations will change our plans in any significant ways. But we’re keeping our eye on 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, decisions may well need to be updated in the months ahead (including, potentially, while Camp is in session). We know that communication is key, and we promise to keep you posted as things progress.
- Be Careful: In the two weeks leading up to your child’s arrival at Camp, we’ll ask you 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 your way. The safety of the Camp community depends on each one of us doing our part, and we thank you 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 your flight. Results must be provided to us 24 hours before arrival. We also highly recommend (and may, ultimately, require) 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 family … 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: Pennsylvania continues to require universal mask wearing. While campers won’t wear masks when they sleep, eat, shower, or swim, they can expect to wear them at most other times of the day. Based on CDC guidance, 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. We haven’t yet figured out all of the details … but we’re getting there!
- 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!
- Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently expanded their definition of “essential workers” to incorporate out-of-school time workers, including camp staff. We’ve shared this exciting news with our summer staff and encouraged them, where possible, to schedule their vaccination as part of Phase 1b. While we know that there are some states where the rollout is delayed, our hope is that the majority of our staff will be fully vaccinated in advance of the summer.
- 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 work long before our first campers arrive.
- 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. We’ll be sharing many more updates in the weeks ahead as you – and we – get ready for an amazing summer together in the Poconos. As always, 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 — April 2021)