Watitoh Summer 2021 COVID FAQs

Updated February 25, 2021

What is the BIG PICTURE for summer 2021?

First and foremost, it is going to be an amazing summer! Our campers and staff (and parents) need camp more than ever and we are ready and excited to welcome our camp family back to the shores of Center Lake. While the most important parts of camp will remain the same, the traditions, the friendships, the personal growth, the activities, and the sense of a close-knit family, there will have to be some parts of camp that will be different in order to keep our community healthy and safe during this time. Despite some of these new policies and procedures, we know that camp will feel like Watitoh, the way it always has been and the way it always will be. 

Watitoh will operate as a modified bubble. Overnight camp is one of the rare places that can create some type of bubble – limiting the number of people coming in and out of camp. As of now, we plan for our campers to enjoy the activities and opportunities on our camp property without spending time interacting with people outside of our community.

We will use many layers of protection including testing, cohorting, masking, and social distancing to move through a Watitoh-designed phase system, similar to which has been implemented by our local towns and states. We have developed requirements around each of these phases that, along with guidance from the State of Massachusetts and the CDC, will help us work through each phase and one step closer to engaging more as one community.

What will the “Watitoh Modified bubble” look like?

Once all of our campers and staff have arrived, we will be limiting the number of people coming in and out of camp so we can reduce the opportunities for someone to bring COVID-19 into our community. We know that we can’t guarantee a virus-free summer, but we do know that we can create an amazing summer and handle a case if it should arise. 

Our camp program was made for this! In a typical summer, campers move through their day mostly as a bunk, and that will stay the same. As we progress through phases, we will expand that to the age group and beyond.  We are very fortunate to already have a program designed that is on-campus centric and we will continue to take advantage of having our own overnight camping site on property, hiking trails, and awesome in-house special events and evening programs. 

Intercamps and out-of-camp trips will most likely not be possible. We will create more leagues and competitive experiences for interested campers. In addition, we are exploring local hiking trips, overnight camping experiences, canoe trips, and other outdoor pursuits that will keep us isolated from the general public. 

Our TIC and Waiters have traditionally gone off campus one night a week.  In the event we are not able to do so safely, we will have special on campus programming for this age group.

What is expected of campers and families prior to the start of camp?

We will partner with our families and our staff to ensure that everyone entering camp has been extremely careful in the days/weeks before arrival. Up to 10 days prior to camp, campers and their families will be asked to be vigilant in limiting their risk of exposure. We understand many of our campers will still have school. While the school setting has proven to not be a high risk environment, it is the events and activities that happen outside of school that are most concerning. This includes but is not limited to: graduation parties (indoor and outdoor), social events, travel, sports, and other large gatherings. More details of these expectations will be outlined this spring.

How often will campers be testing for COVID-19?

We will continue to seek information and best practice from medical experts in the field, the CDC, the Massachusetts Board of Health and the American Camp Association.  Camp Watitoh has been certified by the State of Massachusetts as a CLIA-Waived Site for 2021, allowing all Covid-19 tests to be administered by trained camp personnel, on-site.

Likely test protocols:

  • Test 1 – PCR test at home (likely 3 to 5 days prior to arrival) – Later in the Spring, we will communicate the exact date we will require the test be taken.  As part of this effort, we are arranging potential testing partners for families to take advantage of specifically for this pre-camp testing requirement.  A negative test will be required to attend camp.   
  • Test 2 – PCR and/or rapid Antigen tests upon arrival
  • Test 3 – PCR test (approximately 5 to 7 days into camp)
  • Test 4 – PCR pool test (approximately 10 to 12 days into camp)

We will have additional tests available as needed. A Testing/Covid fee will be added to your bill per camper before our final billing for Summer 2021. The price will depend on our contracted costs.

If a camper has had a positive COVID-19 test within 90 days prior to camp, please contact the office to discuss further.

Will campers be wearing masks and begin the summer in pods?

Campers will be required to wear masks at times throughout the summer. At the beginning, each bunk/pod will be considered “a family” and when inside their “home” or cabin with their bunkmates, campers and staff will not need to wear masks.  While in pods, our campers will still experience a full day and evening schedule of fun. When it is safe and comfortable, we will continue to increase the pod size, and minimize the amount of time spent in masks.

What are the plans for Summer Dates and Visiting Day?

Our plan is to run camp on the typical calendar that we have laid out.

Because we will be limiting as much outside exposure to others as possible, it is unlikely that we will have a Visiting Day. If that is the case, we will work to create a video-calling opportunity for each camper to connect with their family. We know this will be challenging for some families but we also know that with our support, everyone will feel settled and cared for. We will work with each family to make sure their child has the right amount of connection, continues to thrive, and even has something special to open on that day.

What will meals look like?

We are fortunate to have our Head Chef, Joe Menzyk, back for his 34th year, Sous Chef Dave Allyn for his 20th summer and Assistant Chef Gabe Moro for his second summer.   All kitchen staff will be masked and gloved while preparing and serving food. 

Watitoh is all about family.  Mealtime is one of those special times where campers and counselors connect just like around the dinner table at home.  All campers and staff will eat at assigned tables.   

We will have additional seating outside, under tents, to ensure more than 6 feet between cohorts.  We have other things up our sleeves like socially distanced outdoor breakfasts and more cookouts!

How will the infirmary operate this summer?

We will be operating two separate medical facilities: 

  • Infirmary: our traditional location meant for typical triage and medication distribution. 
  • Isolation Cabin: this rented unit will be equipped with bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry for any camper or staff who needs to be isolated due to COVID-19. 

We have added additional medical staff to make a total of four RN/LPN’s and two nursing students. We have partnered with a local pediatrician and Berkshire Medical Center to cover all of our medical needs, including telehealth when needed.

How will my child travel to camp?

In an effort to make the start of camp as safe as possible, right now we are NOT planning on running buses to camp. Instead, we are going to ask every parent to drive their child to camp. We recognize that this presents a significant inconvenience for our camp families and wish we did not have to ask you to do so. However, this is one of the many areas where creating a healthy environment for campers is going to be a true partnership as this plan will mitigate the chance of one COVID positive camper from spreading the virus to multiple cohorts on the bus ride to camp.  

In order to keep the drop-off experience as quick and safe as possible, we would like for our families to use R & B Baggage.

If allowed, and it feels safe, we will offer bus transportation home. We will be in touch as camp gets closer with any available details.

What if there is a positive test result?

If a child tests positive prior to camp, we will follow current CDC guidelines to determine the required quarantine period for your child and work with your family to create a plan for late arrival. Current guidelines call for a minimum 10 day quarantine. The child will also need to be cleared by their home doctor and the camp doctor before returning to camp.

If a child tests positive while in camp, they will be isolated and will need to be picked up from camp within 24 hours. We feel that living at camp for 10 to 14 days, if positive, would be too difficult on the sick camper, and not in the best interest of our other campers and staff.

If my child’s bunkmate tests positive during camp, does the whole bunk need to isolate?

Not at all, the bunk can still enjoy camp as their own pod! This cabin will participate in their own schedule, socially distancing from the rest of camp, eating meals outside, wearing face coverings (when appropriate) and will be monitored for symptoms plus additional testing.  We will prepare a special program with input from the group until they can rejoin the regular camp schedule. Of course, we will communicate with parents of campers in this cabin every step of the way.

What procedures are you taking with the Staff?

We have a record number of returning leadership, bunk and operational staff coming back to their summer home in 2021.  In addition, our new staff hiring has never been busier, some of whom experienced Family Camp last summer! 

Our staff will arrive 14 days prior to our campers and will be following a similar procedure described above with required pre-camp testing, arrival testing and multiple testing dates during staff orientation as well as cohorting, wearing of masks and social distancing as they move through the staff phases.  With the added days to our orientation, it will allow staff to quarantine together, build camaraderie, create culture, and spend time training on our “new” COVID-19 procedures.

Will the Watitoh Staff be allowed off camp on their days off and nights off?

At this time, we are planning for a modified bubble, which will require staff to stay on campus during the summer. We will have space and activities for our staff to utilize during their time off. It is a priority for us to provide opportunities for our staff to recharge, rest, and relax so they can maintain their own mental health and well-being. We have also hired a Watitoh “cruise director” (No, her name is not Julie!) to help organize activities for our staff and implement new and creative ways for our staff to have a memorable summer at Watitoh!

What other steps we are taking to prepare for the summer?
  • We will be using EPA approved cleaner on high touched areas throughout the day.
  • We purchased an electro-static sprayer backpack to sanitize hard-to-reach areas and cover more surface area.
  • We have hired additional cleaning and maintenance staff to clean bathrooms and public spaces more frequently. 
  • Each program area will have cleaning supplies to sanitize between camper groups.
  • We have adjusted our schedule to include dedicated hand-washing times, temperature, and symptom checks.  
  • We will be adding fans and ventilation to our indoor spaces. 
  • We will have tents available for outdoor dining.
  • We will be moving some of our evening programs and special events outside to allow for greater air circulation and social distancing.