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Youth camps preparing for summer with CDC guidelines, encouragement from leaders

Local News

Courtesy of YMCA of Northern Utah

(ABC4) – What will youth camping look like in 2021? Much they way did in 2020, according to local camp directors and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recently released new guidance for operating youth summer camps during COVID-19, even as the pandemic seems to near some sort of conclusion in the United States with vaccination reaching critical mass.

The camping guidelines include a continuation of many of the same procedures and lingo that has become commonplace during coronavirus times, such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Additional updates include a recommendation that all camp staff, volunteers, and eligible campers get fully vaccinated before attending the activities.

Knowing that getting a cabin or group full of children to be onboard with mask-wearing and social distancing, local groups, such as the YMCA of Northern Utah, are planning on sticking with what worked last summer when transmissions and case numbers of COVID-19 were much higher.

Courtesy of YMCA of Northern Utah

Rich West, CEO of YMCA of Northern Utah, tells ABC4 that as campers arrive at their overnight camps, which include Camp Roger and Camp Mill Hollow, they will remain in their smaller groups of 10 or so throughout the duration. Being in these groups, or “camp families,” as West calls them, the campers won’t need to wear masks the entire time, as real families living outside of camp do in day-to-day life.

Should the different groups cross paths or participate in activities together, mask-wearing and social distancing will be in effect.

This procedure was in place last summer and it seemed to work, according to West.

“We didn’t have one case come out of our overnight camp. And, of our seven-day camp, we had three or four cases that came through, but because of our policies, we never have to shut down a camp because we were really good about our policies and procedures. That camp group just had to be notified that they needed to quarantine, but the other groups, because they maintained social distancing and wear their masks, didn’t need to shut down,” West says.

Of course, as with last year’s camps, certain activities have to be put on hold. Usually Camp Roger and Camp Mill Hollow hold weekly camp-wide campfires, but not this year. The Thursday night camp dance is on hiatus as well. However, the camp families or groups will still be able to do many of the other activities, such as archery and horseback riding.

“We’re still maintaining our policies and we hope this is the last summer that we have to do this, but we definitely are airing more on the conservative side. We’re going to maintain our operation like we did last summer,” says West. “We were one of the few camps around the country that did operate our overnight camps last year and we’re really confident and happy that we did it. We had great feedback from our families.”

Courtesy of YMCA of Northern Utah

Those in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that youth camps such as youth conferences and young women’s camp, are integral parts of the youngsters’ experiences as members of The Church.

A recent letter to members from M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, informs church leaders that they should still work to provide youth camps this summer.

“For 2021, we strongly suggest that stake and ward leaders—including youth class and quorum presidencies—plan and hold youth conference and Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood camps,” the letter reads.

The letter also noted, however, that some camps such as For the Strength of Youth conferences, would be postponed until 2022.

With guidelines from the CDC, and encouragement from church and secular camp leaders, youth camps are set to operate this summer. Bring the graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows, camp is on.

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