Hello Parents and Families of Whale Campers,
We are certain that all of you have been following the developments of the global spread of COVID-19. We have been consulting regularly with healthcare officials, border officials, and other residential summer programs in the U.S. and Canada as we prepare for the prevention and potential mitigation/response to the virus in our summer programming. At this point, we are still planning to run all of our programs this summer and will monitor the spread and hopeful containment of COVID-19 this spring. We will continue to communicate as we get closer to the summer and keep our website updated with new information at https://whalecamp.com/the-details/health-services.
Communicable diseases have long been a concern for summer programs and in the past we have experienced and learned from the spread of stomach bugs and flu-like illnesses at Whale Camp. Here are some questions we’ve been asked, or have been asking ourselves, that we hope will help provide some guidance in the coming months:
What if we need to cancel our plans this summer? Or if we cannot travel or cross the border?
We will be instituting a cancellation policy similar to many residential programs and travel industry. If we cancel programs due to the coronavirus, or if you need to cancel your child’s session due to presence in your community, potential exposure, or due to travel restrictions, we will transfer your registration to summer 2021 or offer a full refund. If a camper cancels due to other reasons, we will follow our normal cancellation policy and offer refund minus non-refundable $400 deposit.
How can we prevent the transmission of the coronavirus to our camp and island community?
Screening: We will contact all families one week before the program begins and ask a series of questions about travel, community exposure, and symptoms. If a camper is exhibiting any symptoms, we will ask the child to be tested for coronavirus before coming to camp and not coming if any symptoms are present. If there is a concern about travel, community exposure, or symptoms, we will institute our cancellation policy.
Camp Systems and Hygiene: We are not new to communicable diseases, and already have many systems that prevent the spread of illnesses through our camp community. This includes hand sanitizer stations throughout campus, daily cleaning of dorms, and regular use of lysol wipes on toilets, door handles, sinks, vehicles, and other surfaces. Additionally, our instructors will be diligent about having campers use hand sanitizer in the field/on boats before and after field lunches, hand-washing before and after every meal in the dining hall, and regular cleaning of common areas and vehicles. Additionally, masks will be kept on hand for any campers who exhibit respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing) or fever, until the child has been tested for the virus.
What should we be considering about travel plans?:
Arrival/departure by airplane or bus: We will continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC for international and domestic travel and offer suggestions for families who plan to fly. Airlines, bus companies, and other travel companies are waiving cancellation or flight change fees at this time and likely extending through the summer. If you live in a driving distance, we encourage you to drive your child to meet us in Bangor if you have any concerns about flying. Otherwise, we expect airlines to be very accommodating for camper travel this summer.
Arrival/departure by car: If you plan to arrive/depart to Bangor or camp by car, you have the most control over exposure to the coronavirus by avoiding affected communities and high-traffic areas such as airports or bus stations.
What happens if our airport is closed or a flight is cancelled due to coronavirus?
We will transfer your registration to next year or offer a full refund if your camper isn’t able to return. We expect that airlines will refund tickets. If you can drive to us, please consider arriving by car if the coronavirus is a concern leading up to your trip.
What happens if the border to Canada/US is closed?
We will continue conversations with Canadian and U.S. border agents to be sure that the spread of the virus will not interfere with our ability to cross international borders. If the Canadian border will be closing, we will cancel our camp programming and offer registration transfers or full refunds. If the U.S. border closes, we will continue to talk with agents to inform us if we need to bring campers back to the U.S. at any point before a border closes. If there is concern of campers transmitting the virus back into the states, we will acquire spaces to quarantine our campers and staff once in the U.S.
Mitigation and response:
We have been consulting extensively with the Public Health department in New Brunswick. Coronavirus testing will be available at the Grand Manan Hospital. If a camper is exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus, or expresses concern about exposure in their home community before arrival, the camper will be isolated immediately and we will contact health authorities. In Canada, we can either call our hospital directly, or we can call 811, a free tele-nursing system in which nurses interview patients in detail and recommend a response in order to help reduce the stress on emergency rooms. This has been incredibly helpful in addressing medical concerns including environmental allergic reactions, musculoskeletal injuries, and communicable GI illness. If a child is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they will be transported to the hospital for testing and placed in on-site quarantine if needed at Whale Camp.
Preventing spread to Grand Manan community: We will be incredibly diligent all summer not to expose campers to vulnerable community members on Grand Manan. In the past, we have visited the nursing home to gather stories from residents about living on Grand Manan in the early 20th century. If we have any concern about campers possibly carrying the coronavirus to Grand Manan this summer, we will take precautions to reduce their exposure to community members.
Here are some additional resources:
Canada Public Health Management of COVID-19: addresses response in co-living, dormitory-style situations
Please don't hesitate to contact us via email ([email protected]) or phone (610-399-1463) to discuss any questions or concerns. We hope to see all of you this summer and we've never meant it more! In the meantime, stay healthy and safe in your communities! And be sure to check in on Facebook and Instagram for some fun stories in the coming weeks.
With Best Wishes,
Amy, Cailin, and Andrew
Whale Camp Directors