RICHLAND COUNTY, Wisconsin (WMTV) – Several states in the United States, including Illinois, Missouri and Florida, are experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19 in summer and youth camps. In some cases, epidemics have spread from these camps to the whole community. Wisconsin has yet to experience a major outbreak, and camps in the region are working hard to prevent one.
Camp Woodbrooke, near the Richland Center, is small and accommodates less than 300 children all summer. Camp manager Jill Tikkun said this gives the camp more flexibility and that they have made some big changes over the past two years. This year, their summer sessions are sold out.
âWe are not tech and parents say, ‘Yes take our kids please,’â Tikkun said with a laugh.
For many campers, this is the first time since 2019 that they have been able to spend the summer at Camp Woodbrooke. In 2020, the camp canceled all summer sessions.
âA lot of our board is made up of seniors, so we really didn’t want to risk them getting sick,â Tikkun explained.
However, the summer of 2021 seemed possible, especially with the increase in the number of vaccines.
âOnce it started to open up a lot more to everyone, that’s when we said, ‘Yeah, we can definitely make a camp. âIt opened our doors,â Tikkun explained.
There are several new requirements on the Richland County site. Tikkun explained that vaccines are required for all staff and that campers must come with a negative COVID test.
âIf they’re here for two weeks, we give them a 15-minute COVID test,â she said.
Campers also do activities in smaller pods – per cabin – and are required to wear their masks most of the time, even outdoors. Tikkun said children can remove their masks while swimming, eating and drinking and interacting in their pod.
âBalance this freedom of not having a mask but still being able to enjoy the camp,â she explained.
There is also a process in place if a child starts to feel sick. Tikkun said they are taking a quick COVID test. So far she has had a few situations like this, but all tests have come back negative. If a child tests positive, Tikkun said his entire group would likely be sent home, and the camp is ready to send all campers home if it becomes necessary.
UW Health’s medical director of infection prevention, Nasia Safdar, said these were some of the mitigation strategies needed to prevent future outbreaks, especially in unvaccinated children. Camp Woodbrooke accepts children between the ages of 7 and 12, which means only a handful of campers are even eligible.
âThe more you can move these things outside and space and distance people, the less these things will happen,â Safdar said.
Safdar added that there is always risk in a group like a camp, but there are steps camps can take to keep children safe while still getting the full experience. Safdar also said she didn’t think the outbreaks in the camps would impact plans for the next school year.
“Schools should definitely be in session, I don’t think there is anything to question about that, and there is a lot that schools can do to reduce the risk,” he said. she declared.
NBC15 has contacted a few school districts in the area to find out what precautions district officials are planning for the fall. The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), Middleton Cross Plains Area School District (MCPASD) and Verona Area School District have all said they are still making decisions on safety protocols for the coming year.
The MMSD and MCPASD said they should have a clearer plan by August. The latest CDC guidelines say teachers and students who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks.
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