How Michigan summer camps are preparing to welcome kids after the pandemic

Summer Camp
Posted at 5:46 AM, Jun 04, 2021

(WXYZ) — Summer camps are preparing to welcome kids for summer fun. This year, we're finding out what changes and challenges are being made with COVID-19 restrictions loosening up.

The CDC updated their guidelines for summer camps last month, and fully vaccinated camps are allowed to operate at full capacity but should practice physical distancing, and do regular health screenings.

Some camps are also experiencing worker shortages. According to USA Today, normally, more than 25,000 workers come to the U.S. through a cultural exchange visa program called Bridge USA to help out with American summer camps. Last year, only about 220 workers participated.

The State Department has not reported how many counselors will be able to come this summer.

The YMCA said camps are an opportunity for kids to be kids, especially for those who've been stuck in front of a computer for a year.

"It's just a wonderful place for kids to be," Trunetta Roach said.

Roach said her daughter, Kayla, has been attending Camp Westminster since she was 3 years old. The now 14-year-old and her parents made the trip to Higgins Lake in Roscommon last year, with a few limitations because of the pandemic.

"Last year, we were very clear that we were not going to be in restaurants or congregating with groups other than our own," Roach said.

This year, with things moving back closer to normal, Roach said they'll consider the same precautions but play it by ear.

"We're vaccinated. My daughter's going to get her second vaccination. All the other kids are vaccinated," Roach said.

"We're trying to follow the science as best we can, and we'll prioritize outdoor activities. Kids will be outside, eating outside. Most of our activities are outdoors anyway," Suzanne Bates, the executive director of Camp Westminster, said.

Canoeing, kayaking, swimming in Higgins Lake and more, Bates said children will be in small groups with the same counselors and dedicated equipment, and following guidance from the American Camp Association.

"We are still trying to do our best to keep everyone as safe as possible in this situation and still I don't think they'll notice a lot of difference," Bates said.

At the YMCA Detroit, spokeswoman Latita McCree said normally 3,000 to 4,000 attend their summer camps, but last year, it was less than 1,000.

This year, the YMCA Day Camp will also put children in small, consistent groups.

"That's also helpful and helps keep the transmission of any kind of sickness low because you don't have all the kids interacting," McCree said.

McCree said they are hiring locally more so now because they can't bring in staff with international experiences.

"The American Camp Association has been encouraging the government to expand these J1 Visas. Embassies have been working at home. They may get here but it may be somewhat later," Bates added.

The YMCA said they also need staff, people who love children, can pass a background check, and have some fun while earning money.