Summer 2021 Reopening Information

We are looking forward to starting the summer together. To do so as safely as possible, we want to provide ample time for our staff, campers and parents to acclimate to the health and safety protocols that will be critical as we seek to maintain a safe environment at Camp on a daily basis. The planning is ongoing and will be updated as information and conditions change.

THE CORE GOAL

To safely open Ramah Berkshires for kayitz (summer) 2021 in the presence of COVID while providing a vibrant summer camp experience for both madrichim (staff) and chanichim (campers). We are committed to a creating a safe environment where the power of community, the joys of friendship, and the beauty of Jewish rituals like Shabbat can be realized. We know this summer will be different, but it will still be Ramah.

We will implement testing, establish a Camp bubble, divide campers and staff into smaller cohorts/pods within Camp, plan outdoor activities wherever possible, institute social distancing, and use masking to attempt to keep COVID out of Camp, and to minimize the spread of COVID should we experience an occurrence of the virus. We know this plan will change often over the next few months as some the unknowns begin to clarify. We are committed to keeping our parents, staff, and campers informed along the way.

  1. The progression of the virus within our communities and the rate of vaccination are both evolving rapidly. We do not know how much virus will be circulating in the population in June and we do not know what percentage of the larger population, or our Camp community, will be vaccinated by the summer. In addition, we do not yet know to what degree the vaccine prevents the transmission of the virus.
  2. Although we were thrilled when Governor Cuomo announced on February 17th that residential summer camps in New York could “plan to open” for the summer of 2021, the New York State Department of Health and the local Dutchess County Health Department have yet to issue any guidance or regulations concerning the operation of camps. We do not yet have a timeline for when those rules and protocols might be issued. These rules and protocols, when issued, could significantly alter our planning for the summer.

Due to these unknowns along with several other factors, the current plan will change over the next several months. We are planning for the most restrictive environment while hoping for the least.

The current version of our summer 2021 planning has been developed based upon four primary sources:

  • In 2020, according to the American Camping Association, 80% of the summer camps that opened did so successfully. Since the end of the summer, the Ramah Berkshires year-round team has engaged in numerous dialogues, conferences, and sessions led by the local and national camp and medical professionals who were at the forefront of successful operations last summer. We have also been in close touch with schools in our area that have operated successfully this year. Our thinking reflects their best practices.
  • The National Ramah Medical Committee has developed a comprehensive set of COVID guidelines and recommendations focusing on daily routine, programming, medical care, testing, and safety procedures. This Committee is led by our own Dr. Cliff Nerwen and is composed of the medical directors of every Ramah camp.
  • The Ramah Berkshires Medical Committee has been meeting regularly since the fall to determine the safest way to run our Camp and has been working to adapt the National Ramah Medical Committee recommendations for our program. (For a list of the members of this committee, click here.)
  • The Ramah Berkshires Reopening Task Force was established in the fall of 2020 and has been meeting every six weeks to discuss a wide-range of policy and protocol questions related to opening Camp. (For a list of the members of this committee, click here.)

The safety of our community will rest on our ability to build a community of trust and commitment. Depending on the circumstances, we may ask staff and campers to limit their exposure for a period of time prior to arrival in Camp. We recognize that for some campers and staff this will be difficult given the realities of school and work. But we will certainly expect all our campers and staff to be vigilant about maintaining masking and social distancing in the weeks before Camp.

All campers and staff will be tested prior to arriving at Camp. The exact nature of this testing is still to be determined and will be based on the testing availability as we draw nearer to Camp. The current plan is to test everyone 2-3 days before Camp and then again upon their arrival. We anticipate that campers or staff who test positive prior to arrival in Camp will be able to join the Camp community following the New York State mandated quarantine period. We will share more information on this process as we get closer to the summer.

Current Unknown: We are actively working on a transportation plan for bringing our campers into Camp. Our Medical Committee and the Reopening Task Force will work with local and state officials, while also recognizing that many of the guidelines and best practices are still be developed and will become more concrete as we get closer to the summer.

 Current Known: All luggage will still come to Camp through Camp Trunk Delivery. 

The vast majority of residential camps that operated successfully in the summer of 2020 employed a camp bubble with a strict limitation on coming and going from the campus. We anticipate doing the same. Upon arrival at Camp, staff and campers will not be able to leave and return. This policy has several implications for this summer:

  1. We do not anticipate having an in-person Yom Hachnasat Orchim (Visiting Day). Our Camper Care team is currently working on creative plans to assure that full session campers have a special opportunity to virtually see and talk to their parents in lieu of an in-person visit.
  2. We know that for some edot, trips can be an important part of the summer experience. Unfortunately, we do not anticipate being able to send our campers out of Camp on day trips or longer excursions as we have in the past. We have dedicated an enormous amount of time and resources to developing fun, exciting, and innovative replacements for those trips.
  3. We do not anticipate staff being able to leave Camp for their days off. Staff will still have time off each week in Camp, and we are working to assure that these breaks are significant and reinvigorating.
  4. Campers will not be allowed to leave Camp for any reason.*
  5. We do not envision being able to welcome guests of any sort to Camp this summer.

*Exceptions to this rule may be made for individuals needing to visit a medical facility outside of Camp. These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. In situations that require out-of-camp visits by a member of our CRB community, all safety protocols will be followed, including social distancing when possible and masking at all times. Campers and staff members will be allowed to re-enter the bubble with guidance from the established Medical Committee protocols.

Building upon the successful models of both camps and schools, we envision instituting a cohort/pod system at Camp this summer. Upon arrival in Camp, staff and campers will spend 7-10 days within cohorts consisting of one or two bunks. Masking and social distancing rules will be relaxed only within these cohorts.  Any interactions with individuals outside these cohorts will take place outdoors and will require masking and social distancing.

There will be additional testing during that 7-10 day period and as we near its conclusion. Depending on the results of these tests, the cohort size will then grow to encompass the entire edah (unit). In this stage, edah activities will continue to take place mostly outdoors, but masking and social distancing requirements will be relaxed.

We do not currently anticipate being able to dispense with Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) like masking and social distancing entirely within Camp. We are currently working with our Medical Committee and programming team to determine the best way to hold some large Camp activities (i.e., larger than a single edah). Screening and testing with continue for the duration of the summer and we will continue to adjust our cohorts and programming accordingly.

As a general principle, our programming will occur outdoors as much as possible. In addition to our existing outdoor spaces, we are purchasing several canopy tents to be placed around Camp to allow for additional outdoor covered spaces. These spaces may be used for both programming as well and dining as needed.

As is the case every summer, our “Marp” will be staffed with a full complement of nurses and doctors. We are actively developing protocols to guide our team working in the Marp. In addition, we are making facilities changes to the areas around the Marp to allow for outdoor triage and the separation and isolation of possible COVID cases. All of our Marp staff will use PPE at all times and we anticipate that 100% of our Marp staff will be vaccinated.  We are also currently working on a process of medication distribution that does not require campers to congregate at the Marp.

Taking a cue from successful school efforts, we also anticipate employing a daily check-in with staff about their own health and that of their campers so as to assure early detection of possible COVID cases.

We do not anticipate keeping COVID-positive campers or staff in Camp. Except for in rare cases, all COVID positive campers and staff will return home for their quarantine period. Following the appropriate period, the resolution of symptoms, and a check-in with a doctor, campers and staff who had tested positive will be able to return to Camp.

Should Camp be canceled prior to opening by the State Health Department or by a decision of our Board of Trustees, we will offer options similar to last year, including a full refund and the option to convert part into a donation. 

Should Camp open, our current refund policy remains in place.

In the event of a positive COVID test, either prior to arrival or in Camp, we will prorate the tuition for the missed days of Camp.

Depending on circumstance, Camp may be required to charge a COVID fee. This fee will not exceed $75 per session per camper.  In cases of financial hardship, please let us know.

What important decisions are you waiting on from New York State?
Mostly importantly, we are waiting for New York State to officially declare that residential summer camps will be allowed to open in 2021. (The State did not allow camps to open in 2020.) We anticipate that this will happen, but we are not sure when. 

The other major question about New York State is the nature of the regulations they will require for us to operate Camp. We anticipate both the State Health Department and our local Dutchess County Health department will issue regulations, but we do not know what those will be. Most critically, we are waiting to see if either entity places a cap on our capacity for the summer.

Do you anticipate any major changes to dates or session length?
Not at this time, but of course we will have to see what happens with the virus and with New York State.

Will campers be able to see siblings or friends in other edot (units)?
Yes. There will be time (especially on Shabbat) for campers to see folks in other edot, but, as of now, those meetings will have to be masked, outside, and socially distanced.

What sorts of tests are thinking about using? Pool tests? PCR? Rapid? Sewage?
Yes, yes, and yes. We are considering all sorts of tests, and our Medical Committee is working on which tests will make the most sense at various points in the summer. We do anticipate that testing availability and accuracy will get better in the next few months, which will help us decide.

Beyond not being able to run trips out of Camp, where there be other impacts on programming?
We are currently working to make sure that the great programming we do in Camp every summer will be able to continue in 2021. There will certainly be some modifications and new protocols, but we do not anticipate having to cancel any major in-camp programming this summer. 

Will there be a time when the whole camp can come together?
We are not sure. We do have the space in Camp to bring each side (A-side and B-side) together for programming and still maintain distance between the edot, but we are not sure we can do the same with the entire camp. We suspect that the answer to this question won’t be known until we are much closer to the summer, and even perhaps in Camp, when we will have a better sense of where our community is in terms of COVID transmission.

If Camp is a bubble, why are these continued restrictions necessary after the bubble has been established?
This is a wonderful question. Our assumption now is that we will still be dealing with possible COVID cases in camp, even after the bubble has been established, and we therefore want to limit the number of campers who are considered to have had “contact” with someone who tests positive. (Per current regulations, such contacts would need to quarantine.) However, this is an area where the situation in June or July could mean we are able to relax these restrictions. We certainly hope so!

Will the vaccine be required for campers or staff?
This will very much depend on the availability of the vaccine as we get closer to Camp. The vaccine will almost certainly not be required for campers, given that no vaccine is yet approved for anyone under 16. We will urge our staff to be vaccinated, but we cannot be sure right now that they will be able to do so. We do anticipate that our entire infirmary staff will be vaccinated. 

How will meals work?
Given that mealtimes are (obviously) one of the times during the day that campers and staff will need to be unmasked, we will need to provide enough distance between cohorts during mealtimes. This will necessitate using spaces in addition to the chadar ochel (the dining hall) for most meals. We are currently investigating the use of tents and other covered spaces at Camp to provide extra space for meals. 

If there is a positive test in a bunk, what happens to the rest of the people in the bunk?
Should there be a positive test, the campers and staff in the affected bunk would revert to their small cohort for the assigned quarantine period. They will still be able to experience Camp, but will do exclusively as a bunk unit for the designated quarantine time period (currently ten days per state regulations). 

Final Thought (For Now!)

Ramah Berkshires has always been about relationship and community. And we have seen over the past year that strong communities and institutions have managed to survive and even thrive in these difficult moments. As we move forward confidently (albeit cautiously) towards the summer of 2021, we are counting on the resilience, connection and commitment of our staff, campers and parents. We look forward to working together to open a safe, joyous, amazing Camp experience this summer. 

Summer 2021 Parent Town Hall Meeting