Camp Mendocino Through COVID-19
Updated: Jan 13
We understand that health and safety this past summer 2021 were on the top of everyone's mind. As an organization, we worked countless hours over the last several months ensuring that we have realistic plans that are based on industry best practices. As a result, we successfully served nearly 300 campers with ZERO cases of COVID-19. We consulted with our local and state health departments, the American Camp Association, the Association for Camp Nurses, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other leading voices in the fight against COVID-19. To finalize our guidebook for reopening, we spent well over 50 hours with a task force of nearly 20 people to gather information and make decisions that had the best interest of our Camp Mendocino community.
A few of the important changes we made were:
Reduced number of sessions
Reduced enrollment in each session
Increased time for cleaning & sanitizing
Required use of masks for campers & staff
The use of cohorts to limit mixing between camper groups
On-site testing for campers & staff and much more!
2021 COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
How did you handle personal hygiene (showering, toothbrushing, handwashing, etc.) in 2021?
Hand washing occurred before eating food, before entering the dining area, after touching high-touch areas, and after using common items & hand washing built into our daily schedule. We also had hand sanitizer with all staff and in all appropriate Camp locations.
All bathrooms had a regular cleaning checklist and high expectations for cleanliness. As needed, some sinks and facilities were closed off in order to maintain distancing.
We took extra care to ensure camper personal toiletry items were properly stored. Showering, teeth brushing, etc. happened regularly and within distancing regulations.
What types of programming did you have for teens 15-17 years old in 2021?
Teens who would normally be eligible for the LIT program (age 15-17) were welcomed at Camp and had two options for the summer:
A) Teens aged 15-17 were able to participate in a program more closely mirroring the experience of campers. Teens were assigned their own village with their peers and participated in regular Camp activities. While teens still participated in job readiness workshops with their village, they were not asked to shadow staff members, help support younger campers, or work in the dining hall or dish room (“Clipper” room). There was no stipend for this program and teens in the owl village were still subjected to paying camper fees.
B) Teens aged 16-17 who have previously participated in the LIT program participated in a NEW CIT (Counselors-in-training) program at Camp. There was an application for the CIT program, no enrollment fee, and a stipend for CITs at the end of their session. Participants in the CIT program were assigned a village of younger campers to support. Unlike the LIT program, CITs did not interact with CITs from other villages for social time, workshops, job shadowing, etc.
How did Camp manage mental health and well-being this past summer 2021?
We recognized that 2020 has been such a difficult year for so many. From the loss of activities and social isolation to the grieving of family members and friends, our campers, families, and staff experienced many challenges.
Current research shows that young people especially are at risk of increased feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety due to the 2020 pandemic.
As always, Camp Mendocino will maintain a focus on the physical and emotional safety of everyone at Camp by providing extensive training for staff members on mental health, risk factors, safety concerns, and the impact of trauma. In 2021, we added a new behavioral health position to the staff team. This person served as a resource to Camp Counselors and much other staff who had questions or concerns about camper behavior and mental health.
What were your procedures if someone had symptoms of COVID-19 while at Camp?
Campers and staff engaged in many interventions in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Along with handwashing, masks, cohorts, testing, and distancing, everyone at Camp was screened daily to identify potential symptoms of COVID-19 early. Our Camp medical staff were well trained to identify symptoms of COVID-19 and respond accordingly.
If symptoms appeared while at Camp, the camper/staff would be seen by on-site medical staff to determine if symptoms are consistent with COVID-19. If medical staff determine there was a risk, the individual involved will be immediately quarantined and given a rapid antigen test for COVID-19. Camp staff will then swiftly engage in contact tracing and notify members of the individual's cohort. The camper/staff’s village cohort and anyone with whom they have had close contact (less than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes), will follow quarantine procedures, monitor any symptoms, and get tested for COVID-19.
If the initial test is positive, the individual would be escorted to an isolation area and further arrangements would be made, including asking family members to come to pick their campers up from Camp.
If the initial rapid test was negative and medical staff has a reason to believe that there is still a risk of COVID-19, an additional PCR test will be given and the individual will quarantine until test results are back from the lab.
Were there any changes made to programs/activities in 2021?
Campers always look forward to many of the traditional Camp activities they know and love this past summer 2021.
Some changes to activities include:
*Campers were assigned a village cohort, which did not mix with other villages for activities
*Physical distancing was required
*Masks were required most of the day, with some exceptions for sleeping, swimming, and other high-energy activities
*All-camp events were adjusted to encourage physical distancing and reduce the mixing of camper groups
*Supplies were cleaned regularly and, when appropriate, not shared between groups
What changes were made to the dining/food service in 2021?
All meals were eaten outside to avoid campers interacting indoors. We offered to have single-serve items when appropriate, and all kitchen staff utilized appropriate personal protective equipment including masks and gloves when serving campers.
What were the expectations of staff and campers before arriving at Camp?
All campers & staff were asked to self-quarantine for 10 days prior to their first day at Camp. During that time, campers, staff, and their households were asked to limit their exposure with the general public when at all possible and screen themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. The recommendation to self-quarantine was one of many Non-Pharmacological Interventions used to mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
Prior to boarding the bus to Camp, all campers & staff must have a negative result on a PCR test for COVID-19. This test was taken within the 5 days prior to their first day at Camp.
Within 24 hours of arriving at the departure location and boarding the bus to Camp, all campers & staff were given a pre-screening assessment and a rapid antigen test for COVID-19.
At Camp, campers and staff were screened for symptoms daily, given an additional COVID-19 test on day 5 of each session, and had access to additional tests as determined necessary by the Camp medical team.
In 2021, were campers allowed to attend more than 1 session?
Unfortunately, no. In order to make Camp accessible to as many campers as possible, with limited spots due to COVID-19 regulations, we limited campers to one session each this past summer.
What were the sleeping arrangements like in 2021?
Camp Mendocino is co-ed; boys are located on one side of Camp and girls are on the other. Age groups were separated into different “villages” and each village has several cabins located together with their own bathrooms and showers. Cabins have six bunk beds and are solid wood structures with canvas flaps covering windows and the door. In 2021, villages served as cohorts or "bubbles" and limited cohorts mixing with each other while at Camp. Campers were assigned cabins with reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing while sleeping.
What was the refund policy in 2021?
The "hold-your-spot" fee of $30 is non-refundable for any reason. Refunds of any remaining funds paid would be allowed up to 14 days prior to the beginning of your camper's session. If a camper is not able to attend Camp due to symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to the start of the session, families would contact Camp Mendocino immediately. Every effort would be made to accommodate the camper in another session (when appropriate), and refunds would be given on a case-by-case basis.
No refunds were given if: families cancel with less than 14 days notice before the session begins, camper(s) did not show up for Camp, or if he/she was sent home from Camp for any reason.
What did transportation look like in 2021?
We continued to provide bus transportation from San Francisco this past year. We were unable to provide transportation from Travis Air Force Base. We partnered with our bus company to ensure that we take all possible safety procedures.
A few main policy changes we made are listed below:
Bus drivers, campers, and Camp staff were tested for COVID-19 prior to Changeover day.
Buses were deep cleaned before arrival and departure.
Safety barriers were installed in all buses from the top of bus seats to the ceiling of the bus, providing additional barriers between passengers
Campers were seated on the bus with the village cohort in which they will stay for the remainder of their time at camp. This helped to reduce exposure to other campers and groups.
What did Changeover Day look like in 2021?
Upon arrival at the Changeover Day location, Camp staff would:
Check your camper in with the Registration Coordinators
Take camper's temperature & ask screening questions for COVID-19
Give your camper a rapid COVID-19 antigen test (nasal swab)
The rapid test takes approx. 15 minutes for results. Families waited in their vehicles for their test results.
Once all is clear, families would bring the camper's luggage from the car & label it with a color-coded tag from the luggage table.
Once buses arrived, parents would say their goodbyes, and staff would take your camper & their luggage to the bus!
Masks & distancing were required while at the departure location.
Buses were assigned by the village cohort to limit risk which meant that friends, cousins, siblings, etc. probably were not on the same bus.
There was no eating on the bus and campers were encouraged to eat a large breakfast/lunch and have a snack while they were waiting to get on the bus.
Campers & staff without negative COVID test results, at least 5 days before arriving at camp, were not allowed to attend Camp. If test results weren’t already turned in, families brought camper's results on the day of. No late arrivals were allowed in summer 2021.
Were campers required to have a new 2021 doctor’s physical?
We asked families that if they have access to a clinic or physician, they submit an updated 2021 doctor's physical or immunization record to us 14 days before their session starts.
However, due to the additional barriers facing families this year in accessing clinics and personal physicians, we were not requiring new immunization records or current doctor’s physical records.
If your camper submitted a new physical form & immunization record in 2019, we will not require forms from you.
If a camper was not at Camp in 2019 and therefore did not have a physical update in our system, we will require a doctor's physical dated no earlier than August 1, 2019. This can be a doctor’s physical use for the 2019-2020 school year, or any sports activity in 2019 or 2020.
How did parents contact their camper in 2021?
Unfortunately, due to the nature of how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted, we limited campers in our Camp office this summer. Our office space at Camp does not allow campers to social distance and could risk the health of both our staff and other campers. Therefore, we did not schedule camper phone calls this year.
We ensured that families provided Camp with a working email.
The best way for families to contact their camper was to email firstname.lastname@example.org (with their name as the subject line). These emails were printed and given to campers. Although campers could not email back, campers enjoyed receiving letters from families.
We made additional plans to connect with families regularly throughout their campers’ sessions through our social media outlets.