by Matt Kaufman
on May 28, 2021
Jared and Jackie discuss the 2021 New York State camp guidelines, and how it impacts Ramaquois this summer.
Hi. Welcome back for this week’s video. It’s so great to be here for everybody, and we always love to communicate with our families and our staff. I’m Jared. And with me, as always is Jackie, how are you doing today, Jackie?
I’m doing great. Thanks, Jared. How are you?
I’m fine Except that we’ve had such really great camp weather. And I’m wondering, why are we back inside?
That’s actually a really good question. And I’m wondering the same thing. We’re really inside because this video is going to focus on some really important information. And we just figured that with the sound and the wind, and we just really wanted to be focused and be able to access some notes if we needed to make sure that we convey everything appropriately and comprehensively for all of you.
Yeah, I knew the answer. I just wanted our viewers to know the answer. So some basic things before we get started, remember, as we’ve been promising through all these videos, we’ll be as transparent with you as possible. Whatever information we have, we will share with you. Please don’t forget, as we’ve been reminding you every week, please send us your forms for any enrolled campers. We need your medical forms. If you haven’t ordered your camp clothing yet, please do that yesterday. Make sure that you fill out any of the forms that you log into our parents site, personality profiles, anything, things like that.
We need all that stuff so that we could be as prepared as possible to meet and greet your children. We are so excited to have everybody back so upload, email, whatever you got to do, get that information to us as soon as you can, please. We are going to go through a bunch of important things today and specifically focus on our guidelines, but just a couple of things we want to share with you before. We really kind of get deep in the weeds on the guidelines themselves.
Number one, we’ll have this video and then we’re going to have one more of these videos next week. And then after that, we’re going to be switching over to doing some webinars. So keep an eye out for some information. We’ll be emailing to our enrolled families, sharing with you the dates and times of each of those webinars, and you can log in and you can ask questions and kind of get some answers in real time. We’re going to try to give you all the updated information we have at that time.
So we’re really excited about that. And I think that’s it for the intro. Jackie, what do you say? You want to start talking some guidelines.
Let’s talk guidelines, but also those webinars will be recorded. Also, I think it’s important that if you can’t make it at that time, they will be available for everybody.
Yes, very important. So you can hear our voices over and over again. Exactly.
But I do think we should flip to the guidelines. We’ve been saying all along. We are awaiting guidelines. We are awaiting guidelines, as you know, we receive guidelines, and as you know, they can will and have changed. So we’re going to focus right now on where they are right now, what has changed and try, like Jared said, get deep in the weeds with some specifics for you.
Right. And I think we should also point out that since the guidelines were released, we already within a week had some changes, modifications to those guidelines. So it’s very possible that whatever we share with you in this video could subsequently change again. And we’ll continue to keep you updated on whatever those guidelines are. The really good news is that we will have camp. It’s going to be amazing. It’s going to be great. And these are just some of the rules and some of the regulations that we’re going to have to follow to make sure that we not only run a safe camp, but a fun one, too.
Are you ready?
I’m ready. All right. Let’s do it. I guess. Really. Let’s start with masks Jared. That seems to be what everyone continues to ask about. And actually, that is one of the guidelines that was modified and changed. We had said to you last time we’re really pleased with the original guidelines, quite honestly. But they have gotten even better because of the update with masking. So, Jared, maybe we can provide some specifics about that.
So when the original guidelines came out, it talked specifically about face coverings. And one of the things that the state had requested was that all campers ages two and older would be wearing masks pretty much at all times unless they couldn’t tolerate it. Since then, the state has amended that guideline. And now the guideline has really two parts. Part one is that any campers that are age five and younger are not required to wear masks at any time, provided that they are in their cohorts, in their groups with the same people that they’re always going to be with. So that’s been a big change. And the second part of that is that campers who are older than five, who are not yet vaccinated. It is recommended that they wear masks, but it is not required if they are involved in physical activity. If they’re just bothersome to them, they do not need to wear them. So our interpretation of that is that campers do not need to wear their masks unless they choose to wear them. And that is an important thing to add. Right. If there are campers that are uncomfortable and they want to wear them when they’re not eating or swimming, they certainly can do that. But there is no requirement to wear them whenever campers are outdoors, they will be required to wear them when they are on buses, and they will be required to wear them if they are ever going to be indoors for an extended period of time, which is being defined as longer than ten minutes. So if there is a rainy day and we have to switch to some indoor activities, even though most of our specialty areas are outdoors in open air covered pavilions. If they have to be indoors for any period of time longer than ten minutes, we will be requiring everybody to put face coverings back on.
But the great news is with these new guidelines is that campers do not need to wear masks unless they choose to wear them. And that for us is amazing news, because not only is it great that we’ve got to a point that that’s the safest environment, but also that we can see everyone’s beautiful smiling faces. I think we all know that camp is a place where we connect with people and being able to see facial expressions, to see smiles, to be able to see their genuine reactions, their joy, their happiness is going to make for an incredibly improved experience versus if masks were being worn.
So I think that’s one thing that is just an incredible development there.
And I’m sure you would agree with that.
Without a doubt just want to add there are situations in rainy days where you had mentioned where we might be going indoors. Our plan was all along and still is to have one group (cohort) in an indoor building at a time.
Right. So there’s still be no mixing of groups. But regardless, we’re going to be asking everybody to have face coverings on indoors. And that includes our vaccinated staff and our vaccinated campers. So I think that’s really important. A reminder. We mentioned in our last video that the guidelines do allow for vaccinated campers and staff to also be maskless. And we have been in the process of collecting all that data and that information. So we know who’s been vaccinated when they’ve gotten their shots, and it’s all been cleared and checked.
And we’re really excited about that opportunity. So that has been far and away the most common question we’ve gotten. Again, I just want to mention, I know I mentioned it before on buses. Face coverings are required. We think that this guidance makes sense because it is an enclosed environment. And although windows will be open, we do want to make sure that everyone is in the safest possible environment. And since there’s not a lot of physical activity on a bus, we think that that’s very tolerable for all while they’re traveling on vehicles.
Yes, absolutely. You mentioned about vaccinated versus unvaccinated as far as staff, and at this point now, for some of our campers because of the twelve year old and up guideline, do you want to talk a little bit about how being vaccinated or unvaccinated might change how these guidelines have expectations for behavior?
Sure. Trying to think of the best way to kind of explain it. But yeah, the guidelines are very clear that unvaccinated staff cannot be within 6ft of unvaccinated campers. And since only those who are twelve and older are currently eligible to get a vaccination, it really means that a very large number of our campers will not be eligible to be vaccinated. For us, we’re very limited in the number of staff positions that we can even offer to unvaccinated staff. Right now, we literally only have a handful of staff that do not plan to be vaccinated for medical reasons. And so we are fortunate that we do have a number of staff positions that we can offer to them where they’re not interacting with campers. Obviously, they can’t really be bus counselors or group counselors or even swim instructors. They really can’t be frontline staff for us with campers. So I think the really good news is that all of our staff that are going to be interacting with the campers with the children will be fully vaccinated by the time camp starts if they aren’t already. Like we said earlier, we’ve collected hundreds of vaccination cards and not the cards photos of them.
And so we’re really confident that we’ll be able to do that very well and create the safest possible camp environment for all of our campers through our staff, and I think that’s something that’s really positive for us and something we were really hoping to see in the guidelines and did ultimately see. I’m going to spin the next one over to you, Jackie, because something that you, I think would do a good job of addressing, but we often get questions about I know we sort of addressed it a couple of weeks ago, but trips, visiting now that we have guidelines, what’s the story with trips and parent visitation?
Yes, absolutely. I’d be happy to address that. The guidelines really somewhat validate what our gut instinct was anyway, with regard to this, the current guidelines strongly discouraged trips of any kind, and they really forbid the kind of trips that we are used to taking our campers on. That’s a little bit of a bummer, but it’s something that we somewhat expected when we made the announcement a couple of weeks ago that it was very unlikely we would be offering off campus trips. So the guidelines again validate that opinion of ours, and we’re going to stick with it.
Currently, the guidelines also prohibit parents from coming out to the grounds other than in the case of an emergency. So that will also impact our hope to really welcome parents to visit Ramaquois, which we love. We’re going to miss you terribly, but the guidelines really are just not conducive to us opening camp for parents for visitation. So a little bit of a bummer, but not unexpected. And that is why our plan was guiding in that direction anyway.
So let’s shift gears, and I’m going to talk a little bit about lunch, then, if that’s okay. So we got this question because someone had read the guidelines, and we love the parents that are informed and read all the articles or read everything and reach out and said, Are there any changes in the plans for lunch? Because we had talked about moving everything outdoors. But maybe now with all these things that are permissible for vaccinated people with that change our plans for lunch. And the very simple answer is no, it will not change any of our plans.
Lunch will still be outdoors. It will allow us much more room for campers to spread out. We’re going to be able to keep a group of campers separated either by distance or by physical barriers. We’re going to do what we’ve always done. Lunch will be brought to the table, and campers will be served individual portions, so there may not be the free for all of everybody grabbing from a tray for some of our super hungry kids. It’ll be served individually. It doesn’t mean that they can’t have seconds or other opportunities, of course, but we’ll be serving them individually. For our older campers, we know that it’s a little bit sad and unfortunate that we won’t be able to have our usual salad bar where they have the opportunity to kind of self select and get up and maybe be a little social chatting with someone at the salad bar. So we’ll still have salad and all the same options that we would have there. We just really can’t do a buffet this year. All of our outdoor dining pavilions are almost completed. We’re going to still have music and announcements, and it’s going to feel like Ramaquois lunch, where there’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
It’s just going to be a little bit different, but we think it’s going to be great. We think it’s going to be the same special experience that lunches has always been at Ramaquois and will continue to be this year. So lunch is going to be great, just outdoors.
And another huge benefit of that, which we showed you when we had done some previous filming in those areas is the improvements that we made to our grounds to accommodate the outdoor dining are just beautiful. We have such nice pavilions now and such nice areas for gathering and for eating. So that was an extra benefit of making this adjustment for safety.
Right. Exactly. So double win. Yeah.
Double win. I have a question. I don’t mean to kind of catch you off guard with this, because my question really is, is there anything in the guidelines that surprised you or surprised us as speaking on behalf of Ramaquois was anything really pulled from the sky that we weren’t expecting?
I think we were a little surprised by the cleaning and disinfecting procedures. They were still very strict. We still plan to be super clean and be really careful, but we’re going to continue to do all the enhanced cleaning that has been in place for quite a while. We’re actually now required to log all the times that we clean and have to be able to produce that if there’s an inspection done, it won’t be a problem. But you asked. So I’m telling you that it was a little surprising, and I think the other thing that was a pleasant surprise for us was how encouraged we were by the faith that the state health department seems to have placed in the vaccine.
It’s really great news, how effective the vaccines have been, and we have been encouraging everybody who is eligible to get the vaccine as soon as possible. I think we were just, we didn’t necessarily expect that to be the case. So it’s been just a major win to be able to say that we’re going to have almost all of our staff who are safe and healthy and able to look the part and be able to smile and engage with our campers in that way. Still again, we’re going to be careful to not be too close and huggy touchy or other things that we may have done in previous years, but we certainly are glad that we’ll be able to greet people with our camp smiles and be really excited about that.
I think one last point I want to make because I think talking about guidelines can get a little crazy, but one last point I want to make, we are updating our online code manual. Our plan has not really changed in any meaningful way due to these guidelines. So that’s been great. It seems like whatever we were planning, we’ve pretty much gotten everything that we had hoped for, given all the circumstances. But we’ll certainly try to update some of the wording to make everything just a little bit more certain. So in places where maybe a few months ago, we wrote what we think we might be able to do. We can now say we are doing and we’re really glad and excited to be able to do that. Don’t forget to continue to follow us on Instagram and Facebook. We’ll try to continue to post interesting, engaging and meaningful content there for you to check us out, including this video. And of course, if you have any questions, you can always email me if you like it’s Jared at Ramaquois, that’s J-A-R-E-D at and you should know how to spell Ramaquois, but in case you don’t, it’s R-A-M-A-Q-U-O-I-S.Com and we’ll be happy to get back to you and answer any questions either personally or in our next video. Thank you so much for taking the time to watch. We can’t believe that camp is just getting that much closer a little over four weeks until our first day camp, and we absolutely can’t wait. I know, and we just can’t wait. So, Jackie, thanks as always. And I think we’ll end the way we always do.
Have fun there’s a camp out there!
Matt has spent his summers at Camp Ramaquois since 1984 — as a camper, counselor, and in various administrative positions, including his current role of Associate Director. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University. At camp, Matt works in program development, staff training and camper engagement. He has served as the program chair of the Tri-State Camp Conference and authored a book about summer camp staff training entitled The Summer Camp MBA. Outside of camp, he enjoys hiking, reading, website development, and spending time with his wife, nieces, nephew and dog.
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