March 8, 2021

Camp 2021 Update

Life has been so hard for so many people, especially kids. We rejoice at the prospect of kids getting to be together playing outside at camp, and we have concrete plans for COVID safety this summer. I wish we had info about what Ontario Public Health will require. The Ontario Camps Association (OCA) COVID guidelines have been with Public Health since January. We await their guidance and expect it in early April.

Organizations require a COVID leader to take 100% responsibility for matters COVID. That’s me. Thanks to the luxury of having my grown kids, Max and Mara, doing the lion’s share of camp prep, I am free to work full-time on COVID planning. Thanks to the Ontario and American camp associations, CDC’s camp guide and other resources, we have educated guesses about how to keep COVID out of camp. The American Camps Association COVID Field Guide is highly detailed, science-based and very helpful.

We’re using the “Swiss cheese analogy” of creating multiple layers of precautions, to avoid the “holes in the Swiss cheese pile.” This means layering Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPI’s). Safety at camp will rest on the foundation of the following NPI layers: testing, distance, hand-wash/sanitize, cohorting, the camp “bubble” and changing Changeover.



We have hired Integracare ( to do PCR testing and COVID checks before and at camp. They have been doing this for businesses for months. From Lee Grunberg, Integracare CEO and Arowhon dad:

“Integracare is proud to be working with Arowhon.  Joanne and the Arowhon management team are spending countless hours preparing and taking measures to keep their campers and staff safe.  Integracare, through our extensive COVID testing services and on site nursing, hope to provide one more layer of protection for Arowhon families.”

  • Integracare will PCR test all campers and staff 72 hours before travel to camp, on their way out of Toronto to camp (or on arrival if driving) on Day 5 of everyone’s arrival at camp, and if we have suspected COVID cases. Integracare will also provide a team of COVID-trained nurses to spend summer at camp and do COVID triage/testing/health checks.
  • We hope to supplement PCR with rapid antigen testing at camp.
  • We can’t know till late spring what our exact testing strategy and the resulting cost will be. Camp will cover most of the increased COVID costs including extra buses, double nursing staff, COVID facilities, PPE, extra cleaning and much more. We will ask parents to share the burden of some costs. For example, for the cost of camper tests, we will have a COVID surcharge. We may also have to consider special charges for transport or care or other costs associated with individual campers. We estimate the COVID testing surcharge will range $500-$1000 per camper and we may ask you to deposit a retainer to cover what we know will be charges we have to incur in order to make camp work this summer.

Cohorts and Distancing

  • Likely we’ll start with one or two cabins per cohort, and when they go within two metres of anyone else, they mask. We expect that when tests come back negative, Public Health will allow us to begin combining cohorts.
  • We will do everything possible outside.
  • Implications of cohorting:
    • Kids will attend activities in cabin groups with their counsellors.
    • If/when instructors need to get near kids (e.g. help with a climbing harness, showing how to hold a bow) both parties will mask

Creating and Protecting the Camp Bubble

  • The bubble strategy was foundational to the exceedingly low COVID count at U.S. camps last summer (Of 16,228 overnight campers in the U.S. in 2020, there were 11 COVID positive tests!)
  • We may ask campers to isolate for +7 days before camp and use the COVID Alert App, pending Public Health guidance. We know school schedules may complicate this, and will work with this challenge.
  • We must reduce visitors/people coming/going to a bare minimum.
  • Campers arriving fresh for 2nd session will have the same before-arrival etc. COVID protocols as those who arrived July 1.


  • Likely all staff and 6/8 week campers will have to stay on site for Changeover. We’re planning fun special Changeover programs for these campers.
  • We’ll arrange for all our campers who stay at camp for Changeover to have phone calls/Zooms/Facetime with their parents.
  • We understand some families may not be ok with this change. For any 6/8 week campers who wish to reduce to one session, there will be no reduction-of-session penalty if you inform us by March 31. PLEASE EMAIL ME IF YOU WISH TO CHANGE YOUR CAMPER’S SESSION. BUT BEAR IN MIND THAT IF YOU DROP A SESSION AND THEN LATER WANT TO RE-INSTATE IT, THERE MAY NOT BE A SPOT.

International Campers

  • As of today the Canadian border is closed to non-Canadians, but children entering Canada with a Canadian (or dual citizen) parent may enter. And Canada requires a 14-day quarantine after entering the country.
  • We understand this poses extremely daunting challenges. And that international parents must also be wondering how you would pick up your camper if they test positive at camp. If you need to cancel, there will be no charge. PLEASE EMAIL ME IF YOU NEED TO NEED TO CANCEL.
  • But optimism reigns: We hope border/quarantine protocols will relax before summer.

Camp Payment, Refunds and Info/Forms

  • We normally invoice families April 1, with payment due May 1. This year we’ll be invoicing you May 1, with full payment due June 1.
  • We normally email camp forms March 1. This year you’ll get camp forms April 1.
  • We believe camp will run! But if the government closes camps again, we will of course offer all our families a full refund.

We are so grateful for your patience awaiting info, and also for your support of Arowhon. Here’s to a great summer 2021 on the sunny shores of Tepee Lake!

Joanne Kates


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