Walden’s COVID-19 Protocols
We feel so fortunate to have one doctor and seven nurses residing on premises at all times. These professionals work tirelessly to provide our campers and staff with unwavering care each and every day. We have a stellar and extremely experienced Health Center team, led by our returning doctors – Emily Bahler, Sarah Feldmann, Margie Langer, and Annie Negrin-Reis – all who have experience not only with Camp Walden, but also working with Covid-19 and the necessary safety protocols.
Our committed, diligent, and skilled nurses led by our head nurse, Catie Sitcoff, include Walden veterans Megan Bainbridge, Ella Bourgholtzer, Dianna Ciletti, Jenny Hirsch, and Kim Woodall. We welcome our newcomers Brooke Burns, Claudette Garcia, Megan Good, Grace Maslanka, Stephanie Schouten, Megan Wacker, and Chrissi Wessel. Returning for her seventh summer is our Health Center administrator, Carla Hayman. Our nursing team will begin to arrive in early June to help us safely check-in our staff and ensure all protocols are in place.
In addition to our excellent health care team, last summer we upgraded our Health Center facilities. We added a separate triage tent to minimize traffic in the Health Center. We have also allocated additional space on camp to be used by the Health Center team as needed.
We will require all campers and staff to wear a mask while in the Health Center. We feel this will help limit the spread of all types of germs and illness at camp.
There is no way to impress upon each one of you how important a safe entry into camp is. Getting everyone to camp virus-free gives us the best chance to maintain a healthy camp community the entire season. We all need to be vigilant and do our parts to ensure that our campers and staff enter camp without illness. Even though the world outside of camp is so much more open, because we are entering a communal living space, we need to minimize potential exposure.
All families must adhere to our before-summer protocols. This will include completing pre-arrival testing that will need to be uploaded to our portal. We ask that everyone be extra careful at home for two weeks prior to camp and for your utmost compliance with the following protocols:
- Covid Vaccination Policy-
- All campers and all staff will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, including boosters (for those eligible). As previously communicated, the NY Department of Health protocols (released for overnight summer camps in June) state that in the event of a direct Covid exposure while at camp, all non-fully vaccinated campers (which includes boosters) from that bunk will be required to go home to quarantine.
According to the NYS DOH, campers of ALL ages, including campers ages 11 and under, are recognized to be fully up-to-date with their Covid vaccines if they meet one of the following criteria:
- Have two Covid Vaccine doses AND have a booster dose four months after their second original dose*
- Have two Covid Vaccine doses and are within 4 months of their second original dose date*
- Have two original Covid Vaccine doses and have tested positive for Covid since May 17th.
*if your child will require a booster shot while they are at camp, please let us know and we can try to arrange this with a local pharmacy.
We are now, therefore, strongly recommending that all campers, including those ages 11 and under, receive boosters to avoid being considered not fully vaccinated by the NYS DOH.
Guidelines for the Week Prior to Camp:
- Avoid Unmasked Indoor Gatherings – Please be extra careful in the days and weeks prior to camp. We ask that you avoid densely populated unmasked indoor gatherings with friends and family.
- Masks – Please wear a mask when needed. Even though the world outside of camp is so much more open, in order to get to camp healthy and safely, we must limit our exposure.
- Avoid Unnecessary Travel – In the 2 weeks leading up to camp please avoid travel as much as possible. If you need to travel, please wear a mask and be extra careful to avoid exposure.
- Family or Close Friends with Covid – If someone in your family or a close contact of your family tests positive for Covid in the 2 weeks prior to camp, please inform us immediately so we can work together on a safe entry plan.
- Campers Not Feeling Well – If your child is unwell in the days prior to camp, please do not send them to camp. While delaying arrival might be disappointing, bringing Covid or any other illness into camp would put our entire community at risk.
- Optional PCR Test – In light of the high incidence of asymptomatic infection, as an option, some families might consider PCR testing 10 days or more before the departure for camp. If a child tests positive during this time, quarantine could begin before camp starts and not have an impact on the start of summer. Please know, a negative result will not preclude anyone from doing the 3 to 5 day out PCR testing.
Camp Walden will be partnering with Vow Digital Health, who will serve as our portal where you will upload all testing results. This will assist us in streamlining and organizing all testing information. We will share further information about registering with Vow Digital Health as we get closer to camp.
We are relying on all families to do everything in their power to avoid exposure the week prior to the pre-arrival PCR test, and from the time of the test until your child departs for camp. A Covid test taken a day or two after participating in a large unmasked group gathering is useless and will create unnecessary risk to our entire camp population.
- 3-5 Days Prior to Camp – All U.S. and International campers will need to show a negative PCR Covid-19 test that you may receive from a local testing site or pharmacy 3 to 5 days prior to arrival. We will require test results to be uploaded onto our portal. The cost of these tests will need to be incurred by families. Fees and insurance coverage will vary depending on where you choose to test.
- Opening Day – Each camper must take an additional PCR-quality test within 24 hours of arrival at camp. We recommend the Lucira Check It, an at-home PCR-quality test that provides more accurate results in 30 minutes or less. Please upload a photo of that negative test result to the portal prior to arriving at the bus stop, or prior to arriving at camp (if dropping off or flying that day).
If your camper tested positive for Covid after March 29, 2022, we ask that you submit the PCR test so that we have it for our records. If you have not done so, please contact our Health Center Administrator, Carla Hayman, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Campers who test positive for Covid within 90 days of camp will not need to PCR test both prior to camp or while at camp, for that 3 month period. They will be required to Antigen test in place of the PCR (3-5 days before arrival) and Day 1 of camp.
In the odd case that someone who had Covid within 90 Days is testing positive on the Antigen test, our medical team will work directly with that family to decide on the proper course of action.
Testing Throughout the Summer
All campers entering will be tested by a Rapid Antigen test upon arrival. We will continue to assess additional testing as needed throughout the summer. We will have many Antigen Tests on site and also the ability to PCR test as needed. Although it is not our present plan to do additional mass testing, that decision might be revised by our medical team.
Since we are not running an in-person Visiting Day, our Second Session campers will pod for 4 days prior to entering into bunks with Full Session campers. Many Second Session campers live in full Second Session bunks so this would not impact them.
If a Camper has Covid-19 Symptoms
If a camper presents to the Health Center with Covid symptoms, they will see our camp doctor who will advise on next steps. Campers may be Covid tested with an Antigen test. If testing returns negative and there is no fever, it will be at the discretion of our doctor when the camper can return to their bunk.
If a Camper Tests Positive
If a camper tests positive while in camp, they will be quarantined and asked to be picked up from camp within 24 hours. We will follow protocols outlined by New York State Department of Health for return to camp.
We understand that in the event of a positive case, some families will want to immediately test their child again once they are home. Please note that in order to maintain consistency and take care of our entire community, regardless of what a child’s test result is when home, our test will stand and the camper will need to follow our protocols.
If a Bunkmate or Staff member in the bunk tests Positive
In a bunk where someone has tested positive, campers will be asked to take precautions to help minimize the spread of Covid.
We will let parents know if someone in the bunk has tested positive. We will not be able to share specific names or personal information. Parents of the campers in the cabin where a positive case was identified will be updated on their own child’s health and will be provided with information as to the monitoring and management of the situation.
We hope that we will not have to require masking regularly but we will make those decisions as necessary. Please send your camper with 3 boxes of 50 disposable masks.
For the first 3 days of camp, we will keep bunks/ together while enjoying all of the “normal”, unmasked, outdoor, camp activities.
Masking will presently only be necessary the following times
- On the bus and flights to camp – all campers and staff must wear KN95 masks to mitigate potential early exposure across age groups.
- In the first 3-4 days, we will likely run all of our activities outdoors or by bunk/age-group. In the rare occurrence that we need to place multiple bunks/age-groups in an indoor space, we will wear a mask at that time. We will ask campers and staff not to visit other bunks indoors for those first few days of camp.
- Health Center – many of our health center needs will be taken care of outside of the health center, on our porch or in our triage tent. If someone needs care inside the health center, or someone needs to see the doctor, they will wear a mask the same way we do in our doctor’s offices at home.
- Dining Hall Buffet Line – we will require campers and staff to wear a mask in the buffet line in the Dining Hall. This will allow us to continue to offer a wide variety of food options at camp while also maintaining safety.
- Rec Hall – when we have full-camp activities in the Rec Hall, campers and staff will be required to wear a mask.
- Office – due to the constant flow of people in this indoor space, campers and staff will be asked to mask when they are in the office.
After careful consideration, we have decided to cancel our in-person Visiting Day on Saturday, July 23rd. We feel there is too much risk involved in bringing 1,000+ people into our camp in the middle of the summer. We want to do everything within our power to ensure that our Full Summer campers get to enjoy all seven weeks of camp and our Second Session campers enter a safe campus, which we know Visiting Day could very well jeopardize.
Similar to last summer, our Full Summer Day will have extra special activities, including our visiting day lunch spread, and a video-calling opportunity for each Full Summer camper to connect home. We know this may be challenging for some families, but we know that with our support everyone will feel the care and the love that Walden is most known for.
We will again provide campers with iPads for the video calls. In addition, in an effort to provide our Full Summer older campers with some of the Visiting Day perks they have grown accustomed to, we will once again allow our Full Summer campers entering 7th grade and above to bring cell phones to camp for their scheduled phone time. Although it will be a very limited amount of time, it was something many of our older campers enjoyed last summer. Phones coming to camp will be stored in the office, and provided to our campers to complete their video calls. Please label phones with first and last name. Phones should be given directly to the staff member when arriving at the bus/accompanied flight, or hand them to the front office at camp if dropping off.
As you know, Walden has a no package policy. Similar to last summer, on Full Summer Day, we will supply each bunk with a plethora of nut free candy and treats to share together. Please send your Full Summer camper with all they will need for the full summer (eg. their banquet outfit, extra batteries, toiletries, etc). If campers need any additional supplies, we are happy to get them through the camp store. We realize that duffles were picked up for most families, if full summer campers need to bring a small bag on the bus with additional items this is no problem.
Unlike last summer, all campers of all ages will be arriving to camp on the same day. The only exceptions will be campers that are flying on accompanied flights, who will arrive the afternoon prior.
Buses and Flights
We are so excited to return to our normal procedure of running buses and accompanied flights to camp.
To minimize risk of any Covid spread as campers travel to camp, we will require the following:
- All campers and staff must wear a KN95 mask on buses and flights.
- Please do not eat on buses or planes to minimize potential risk.
For people flying to camp, please exercise extreme caution and mask at all times in the airport and on the flight to limit exposure to other people.
Parent Drop Off
Families who choose to drop off their camper can do so between 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM. We will allow families to park and come up to the office wearing masks to say goodbye to your camper. A staff member from your child’s group will come to the office to meet you and pick up your child. Please note that on Opening Day, campers should only bring a small bag that they can carry themselves. All other bags will need to be shipped to camp in advance of your camper’s arrival.
First Session Campers Returning Home on July 23
All First Session campers will be transported by bus to one of our pick up locations, or to the Albany airport, as necessary. If First Session families plan to travel elsewhere from camp, please communicate this information to us and we will do our best to work out an off-site pickup location.
Second Session or Full Summer Returning Home on August 17
As always, transportation by bus will be available to one of our pick-up locations. We will provide transportation for those flying out from Albany and also will have Parent Pick Up directly from camp for those who do not live near one of our bus locations or those who are planning on traveling from our area.
2-Week Campers Returning Home on August 7
For the few 2-week campers that we have this summer, we will provide van transportation, or families will pick up at camp on August 7th between 9 and 10 AM. Camper bags will be available that day or you can choose the Camp Trucking option for baggage, which will be shipped home at the end of the summer.
People still ask us if camp will be different for the summer of 2022. The answer is YES!!! The world is still different, and camp will be different too. We want to create an experience that is as “normal” as possible but there will, of course, need to be protocols in place to keep our campers and staff safe and healthy. In addition, we might decide that some of our out-of-camp activities are not worth the amount of risk for the reward gained. While we are planning for a much less restrictive environment this summer, we will pivot and make adjustments as needed.
Each summer, when our campers arrive, we run an orientation with their group. It is a time to remind everyone of the beautiful culture that exists at Walden and how we will work to take care of each other and value each other throughout the summer. During that time, each bunk will be oriented on all of our policies and procedures, and we will share how we will work together to help keep our community safe.
We know that the last two years have been challenging for many campers and staff. Even though campers might be excited for camp, we understand that testing, communal living, and large group events may come with some worry. Our stellar Leadership Team, along with our exceptional staff, will work with each camper individually to make sure they feel emotionally and physically safe, supported, and loved. We will be there for them every step of the way.
Siblings and families will, of course, see each other around camp, and will be able to check in on each other in the first week and throughout the summer. We will be able to have regularly scheduled sibling time and will make sure that siblings are connected to each other.
Visitors on Camp
We are planning to run a limited number of tours for prospective campers. With the use of testing, masking, and social distancing, we will be careful not to put our community at risk. We will not allow visitors to enter enclosed spaces with our campers or staff.
At this point, we (and most other camps) are unable to make a final decision about intercamp games. Please know that either way, we will provide competitive sports opportunities either on or off campus for interested campers.
As far as local trips for our campers 14 and younger, we will continue to re-assess as the summer progresses. We are fortunate to have mountain biking and hiking on our property and our island for overnights. To the extent possible, we will provide additional opportunities off premises, especially in venues that would be private to us.
Our traditional trips for our 15 and 16 year olds are a highly anticipated and enjoyed component of our oldest campers’ program. As of now, we are planning to run them, and we have revised the itineraries to provide as many outdoor and Walden-only experiences as possible.
Unlike Visiting Day, intercamps and out-of-camp trips are something that we can pivot quickly on. We will continue to assess as we go and make decisions that are in the best interest of our campers and staff.
We will create opportunities for our staff to enjoy time on camp during their free time in the evening. We will provide snacks and space for them to be together. We will plan local trips to places such as Martha’s, Stewarts, and Target.
For Staff Days Off, we have again secured an off-site motel that will be exclusively for our Walden staff to act as an annex to camp. This will provide opportunities for our staff to have time together, to sleep in late, and to enjoy their social experiences off site in a safe location. During the daytime portion of the day off, our staff may enjoy their time in town, having lunch outside, going to the beach, hiking, or shopping, etc.
In an effort to have “normalcy” we will partner with our staff to be as Covid safe as possible while still having freedom to be off camp property. They, too, will be asked to avoid densely populated indoor gatherings and to mask if they feel they are in an area where they would be at risk. While we realize that this is not the “bubble” we created last summer, we feel it is a conservative approach and allows our staff to be able to have some normalcy in their time off.
We have purchased a number of large tents to help create additional spaces for more outdoor programs as well as dining areas. Last summer we also added outdoor tents and triage space to our infirmary and office.
We have hired extra housekeeping staff to sanitize all cabins and public areas daily, and all high-touch surfaces constantly. Last summer we purchased foggers and sprayers to extensively disinfect all cabins and indoor spaces daily. We also have dozens of sanitizing dispensers all around camp.
We will once again stagger meal times and have additional outside seating using our deck, patio and tent. We will continue to serve delicious and nutritious meals (including a salad bar and sandwich bar). We love having all of the options available at camp and do not want to limit those options by not offering a buffet. In an effort to ensure we keep campers and staff from spreading Covid, we will require everyone to wear a mask while on the buffet line for the first few days of camp. We are so fortunate that our head chef has been with us for over 10 years. He has a wealth of experience and a team that primarily consists of returning staff.
All camper forms were due by April 15, 2022. If your camper has a physician’s exam after April 15th, please notify us so that we can note that information in their records. Everything other than that should be submitted already. We need your help so that we can be completely ready for the campers.
This summer, we will once again be using the Campanion App, a user friendly mobile app, that mirrors your CampMinder account. While you can log in to your CampMinder account on your computer or tablet, the Campanion App will be the easier/preferred method for families to view photos, and send emails to your camper. We recommend that you download Campanion today from the App store and log in using your CampMinder account information to familiarize yourself with this very user-friendly system.
Walden has the best families and we are so grateful for the partnership we have created together. So often people ask how they can help and what they can do, recognizing how challenging it is to run a large communal living space during a pandemic. Here are some things that you could do to help:
- Please have all forms completed – if you have not already done so, please submit all forms today.
- Fill out the Pre-Arrival Screening from which can be found in the ‘Forms and Documents’ section of your Campminder account. If information changes as we get closer to camp, (ie: your camper has had an additional booster or has had Covid in the days/weeks prior to the summer) you can add that at that additional information as necessary. We will even remind you prior to camp.
- Please upload pictures and information regarding test results to portals on the dates specified.
We need everyone to comply with the procedures as diligently as possible. The less time we need to spend chasing individual families, especially as we get closer to camp, the better we can prepare and care for our entire Walden community.