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Pathfinder's Covid-19 Plan for Summer
Ontario Headlines – Mid April 2021
Ontario is fighting a new surge of Covid-19 cases, just as camps are finalizing plans to get Ontario’s go-ahead to reopen for Summer 2021. Everyone agrees camps are essential to the well-being of children this year. Despite this latest Covid challenge, optimism remains high that camps can be opened in July. Meanwhile, provincial health and federal immigration staffs are working on a plan to admit American campers.
On April 8, Ontario officials triggered the province’s ‘Emergency Brake’ to lock down daily activity across the province in response to spiking cases of Covid-19 and an increase in hospitalizations. The move included taking school days back to only online learning after the April break period, and tightening the gathering limits in Ontario. The measures were set for a month’s duration.
Just over a week later, on Friday April 16, Premier Doug Ford again addressed the people of Ontario, to announce further tightening of restrictions, including control of inter-province travel, as well as plans to target vaccinations more heavily to communities suffering the greatest rate of community spread of the virus. Schools will remain closed for a further two weeks.
A way to view the events of the past week is that Ontario intensified its measures to protect the chances for a more normal summer, one including summer camps. All of us in camping want to see two important metrics: vaccination rates increase while strict measures tamp down the uptick in cases.
Meantime, we can take encouragement from the fact that the central Ontario region and Huntsville / Lake of Bays / Algonquin Park in specific have very low case counts and medical resource pressures.
What do the latest Ontario headlines mean for Camp Pathfinder and the 2021 Summer? Read on.
Pathfinder – April 20, 2021 – Where We Stand Today
The two main hurdles overnight camps face are to be authorized to operate in summer by the province as soon as possible, and to have a reliable means for American campers to come to places like Pathfinder. Both of these are the current full-time focus of the OCA and Pathfinder.
In a phrase, Pathfinder remains confident the summer sessions will be able to take place, and that all our campers will be able to attend, from both Canada and the U.S.
The Ontario Camps Association is our most effective advocate for these goals. The focus of OCA work is two-fold: with Ontario Health, to produce at-camp health guidelines for the season, and with the office of the Premier, Doug Ford. The province must be the one to authorize overnight camps for 2021.
In Pathfinder’s case, we need overnight camps to be reopened, but an extra layer of progress is needed. The US-Canada border has to be ready to admit American campers to Ontario for their Pathfinder sessions in July and August. This seems most likely in the form of a travel ban exemption. Canada Immigration is supportive of this concept and is working with us now. OCA is progressing on creation by the Ministry of Immigration of this or similar special category for American campers to return to their traditional camps. The focus would be on pre-camp at-home quarantine, testing, and bubbled camp life with cohorting, very similar to the plan for Ontario campers. A possible difference for Americans will be additional testing at the border entry, with a date-certain for a follow up test at camp.
The OCA’s discussions with government include detailed planning with Ontario Health and its regional medical officers. You can see how the proposed health guidance looks at Pathfinder from our own Pathfinder Covid Plan.
As well, OCA is in direct contact with the Premier’s Office and cabinet, where the word must come that overnight camps are being returned to the Ontario Framework for Reopening.
Covid variants are driving much of the increase in Ontario cases. Meanwhile vaccination in the province is just now beginning to accelerate. The majority of cases and transmission remain focused in Ontario’s urban areas. In Huntsville, Lake of Bays and Algonquin, the public health environment continues to be overall good, but vigilance is high and all provincial measures apply in this area for now.
During this time, Pathfinder will still be able to get camp opened up from winter and prepared for the season ahead. And health conditions in Ontario are expected to improve due to the intense measures being applied at this time. May and June will light the way to July and August.
With this new chapter of the Covid story unfolding, the latest government measures mean more patience is needed before we get final word that overnight camps will be authorized to open. An encouraging sign is that day camps, currently closed like other non-essential businesses, are still in the provincial framework plan to reopen, with specific limits set by their regional color code, once present emergency measures expire. Overnight camps need the same.
What Should Parents, Campers and Staff Expect?
In two weeks, on May 3, Pathfinder will update its recommendations to all our families. For now the recommendation remains 'stand fast,' to maintain your staff job or camper enrollment with Pathfinder. For the next two weeks, Pathfinder’s plan is to proceed as we have been, making plans and preparations for the summer sessions. AA trips continue being planned, the CIT and staff training programs likewise.
I am encouraging camper families to stick with their plans for camp, but to feel free to contact me directly if you would like to discuss the situation, your questions, and possible options so that you can both plan for camp and still explore alternatives for your camper as well.
Meantime, please do review what to do now, to prepare for your camper coming to Pathfinder. Read and understand the Covid plan. Prepare the household schedule for both a period of reduced exposure and a diagnostic Covid test prior to camp travel. Check on travel options now. Check the packing list for a few new 2021 suggestions. And, please do reach out to me at any time.
What Would Happen If Pathfinder Summer Sessions Are Not Authorized ?
If Ontario is forced in a month's time to delay or restrict camp activities, there are several alternative programs Pathfinder can run. Family retreats are possible, and so is a private grouping of families to run a session with mutually agreed health measures at Pathfinder Island. The Second Half session may well be available to us all, and Pathfinder would host as many First Half campers as possible in that session along with Second Half boys.
Square Dealings at Pathfinder
You can rely on the camp to give complete information as we have it, and to be completely up front about what’s happening, and what’s likely for Ontario’s overnight camps, as well as the border status.
Pathfinder families can also rely on the camp to be completely reliable in its financial arrangements with families in the event that civil authorities once again enforce limits, delays or cancellations due to Covid-19.
A Call To Action For Our Camps - Advocacy
Join Ontario’s Outpouring of Support for Camps
March and April have seen a tremendous advocacy campaign pushing Ontario to authorize overnight camps now for Summer 2021. Pathfinder is closely involved and asks you to join the effort. Share our ‘Thanks to Camp’ social posts and view an OCA YouTube program. Then, go to planforcamp.ca and find out how to contact elected officials to make your feelings known. Read below for details. We need overnight camps authorized to open, so we can plan for our renaissance summer. Your voice matters.
Pathfinder and other prominent camps have organized a social post series of notable Ontarians standing up for camps in a campaign called, ‘Thanks to Camp’. Please like, repost, share and comment on these posts. See and share them avidly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and enjoy them on Pathfinder's Facebook pages. Your campers will be interested to see who's a camp celebrity!
As well, an OCA YouTube program premiered Apr. 12, drawing a tremendous response - 20,000 views within 24-hours, a startling show of support from families and health professionals across Ontario. The video lays out our kids' need for camps, the readiness-planning all camps are doing, and the call for government officials to permit camps like Pathfinder to reopen, as long as Covid cases in the province are subsiding by summer.
Add your click to this video. It continues to have an impact on officials. The unique 90-minute program (watch here) features health comments and policy panel discussion from experts in the province, including SickKids Hospital CEO Dr. Ronni Cohn, our OCA Task Force chair Jack Goodman, outdoor and children's health experts. Included are the sentiments of kids and camp directors from far and wide. You can make a real difference in this effort. Please return to the YouTube program and click it open to boost the view-count. Then ... Keep up the effort! The incredible public show of support is key to achieving the #planforcamp. You can be a part of it. Send your message to Ontario's elected leaders.
After viewing, rise to the program’s Call To Action. Visit planforcamp.ca to get details and contact provincial officials, so you can add your voice to the call: 'Bring our camps back this summer!' If you would like to cut to the chase, or are an American trying to reach out, choose the MPP for Nipissing, Vic Fedeli, whose riding includes our part of Algonquin. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford and officials at Ontario Health are so far heeding the wave of support from #planforcamp. In fact, these key agencies and OCA task force members are actively discussing the way forward for camps at this writing. The work has been non-stop since last autumn. It continues!
American or Canadian, you can write an MPP for your riding, or for Algonquin, and let your views be known. Simply - camps like Pathfinder can operate as closed bubble settings, with excellent health plans, and partnerships between camp directors, doctors and Public Health. Kids need their camps!
Naturally, any plans will be subject to health conditions when it’s time for campers and staff to arrive. But for camp to happen at all, the words “Plan For Camp!” have to be heard from Ontario right now. Now is the time camps must make final plans, so now is the time to have Ontario reauthorize camps.
Pathfinder's Covid-19 Summer Plan
Now is also the perfect time to get familiar with the camp’s Covid plan for summer. It has been designed with expert advice and includes key components to protect everyone at Pathfinder this season. Read the plan for its important basic elements, including: pre-camp routines, testing, travel, cohorting, the closed camp bubble, daily practices, tripping, and case management.
Parents of campers and staff, please take this time to get familiar with tasks you will need to do, in order to be ready for summer. One is setting the household’s schedule to accommodate your camper or staff member getting ready for his Covid test and travel to camp. This stage of his summer involves a period of reduced exposure outside the household. Another task is to find out where you will be scheduling your test, and deciding the optimal date for the test, so that results will arrive, and travel to camp follow immediately after. This is the right time to check travel options, too.
The Pathfinder plan, made in partnership with Ontario Health, will be combined with any requirements of our local public health authority, which will be in close collaboration with us throughout the season. Certainly, the plan you see today will become much more detailed as we ramp up for camp operations.
The good news is that the plan has been created in partnership with our camp medical directors, with private health consultants, with the OCA, and with the camps team at SickKids Hospital. Input will come as well from the provincial health officials in coming days. They will, in turn direct local public health in how to work with us.
The Pathfinder plan will ultimately carry extensive detail on a range of topics only summarized in our published edition. Some areas include cohort sizes and daily practices at Pathfinder Island, sanitation and hygiene measures, canoe tripping practices, dining and food service, staff duties and support, periodic or symptom-driven testing, and response to Covid-like symptoms or positive cases in the camp community.
Communication from camp to home will be a major component of the Pathfinder plan. We expect to provide daily status updates through the camp website, and to openly share information on camp health in general, and any Covid responses in specific, through direct calls and emails home.
And, as always, Mary and I are only a call away.
A long April parent bulletin, but well worth sharing everything we know as of now.
Stay tuned, stay optimistic, and stay in touch!