Few changes to summer camp operations in Alaska

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska summer camps are about to be busy in 2021, according to program organizers. Most organizations Alaska’s News Source reached out to said there are very few spots left, if any.

As of now, summer camps are going to look similar to how they did last year, but that could change as fast as the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and American Camp Association comes out.

At Trailside Discovery Camp and Camp Fire Alaska, masks are going to still be required for all campers and staff, even if they are vaccinated.

At Trailside, Camp Director Victoria Long-Leather said it was very recently that children 12 and older could get vaccinated, and that anyone who is fully vaccinated can stop wearing a mask indoors if they want. Because it’s so new, they aren’t changing their program yet.

“Trailside’s parents registered knowing that masks were going to be required, our staff were hired knowing that they’d be required to wear masks,” Long-Leather said. “So with shifting it so fast, without doing our due diligence of getting input from parents and staff, we want to be sure that we make the best decision for Trailside and for our camp programs.”

At Camp Fire Alaska, Director of Operations Rae Ratliff said the camp’s internal COVID-19 committee is meeting this week to discuss the recent changes to mask guidance and vaccine eligibility. Ratliff said they are anticipating some changes based on that.

As of right now, neither camp is requiring campers or staff to get vaccinated, or to submit vaccine history information.

“When it comes to our youth and families, we want to give them as much leeway as possible to decide what’s best for their family,” Ratliff said. “We do have some different requirements for resident camp as guidance comes out because those youth are living together. But currently just for our day-based programs, we are not inquiring nor requiring vaccinations or vaccination information from our families.”

However, there is a chance for children who are eligible for the vaccine to get it at camp through the municipality. Long-Leather said they were approached by the city to see if Trailside would be interested.

“They would potentially come here and with parental permission, they would do the implementation of the vaccine,” Long-Leather said.

Chelsea Ward-Waller with the Anchorage Health Department confirmed that that is a possibility for summer camp programs. She said any camp or business in general can sign up for a mobile vaccine clinic to provide shots by calling 907-531-5100.

Both Trailside Discovery and Camp Fire Alaska expect changes as the summer goes on. However, both remind families that last summer they had to deal with a lot of changes on the fly before knowing as much as is known now about the novel coronavirus.

Both said they would be able to adapt to any changes as they come down and are confident they can adjust programs accordingly.

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