Camp leaders adapt to summer of COVID-19

LAKE WYLIE, S.C. — Summer camp looks a little different this year for the 1,600 campers at the YMCA’s Camp Thunderbird.

Camp leaders had to make major changes to protect campers from COVID-19.

“I think it’s going great,” said Kimberly Conroy, executive director. “The campers are why we do it. It’s been a heavy lift this summer running in a totally different manner.”

Conroy explained several procedures that are in place to make this camp happen in the summer of COVID-19.

One of the most significant changes is to keep day and overnight campers in small family groups.

“It’s hard for kids to socially distance, and we didn’t want to continually be saying to them, ‘six feet apart,’ so we made sure that we were just keeping those really safe family groups,” Conroy said. Our family groups do not intermix.”

Everyone has a daily temperature check and health screening, and they're almost always outside.

They will not be going into recreation or dining facilities.

Children young and old who take a bus to camp must wear a mask while riding.

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Staffing has remained the same to keep up with sanitation even though there are fewer campers this year.

“It’s been good, nerve-racking to say that, but it’s been very good so far,” Conroy said. “And we’ve served about 1,600 campers so far this summer, and we’ve been lucky we’ve not had any cases. I do think the steps that we’re taken have been very helpful. I don’t know that we could’ve made it this far without a case if we weren’t doing it right.”

Ann Olevitch, who is from Atlanta, said it was a big decision to send her two children to Camp Thunderbird. She said that she was “overwhelmingly comfortable” with sending her kids to camp.

“It’s been a struggle for the last several months to balance their physical and mental health and just the thought of being able to see some lifelong friends that they’ve made at camp,” Olevitch said. “But to physically get out and have a change of scenery in a safe environment, just has been wonderful.”

Conroy said she knows the CDC is watching how summer camps go and what that could mean for schools.

One of the main differences is that most activities can happen outside, but that’s not the case with schools.

A summer camp in Arkansas and another in Missouri have had to shut down after campers and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

[Coronavirus outbreak at Missouri summer camp infects at least 82 campers, counselors, staff]

Officials in Missouri said 82 cases have been linked to the Kanakuk K-2 camp in Lampe.

Nearly 5,000 campers have attended this summer, and they're still working to identify kids who may have been exposed.

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