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The Kalkaska-based sleepaway camp will move forward pending new state guidelines.

Camp Tanuga, an overnight secular camp in Kalkaska, Mich. that draws many Jewish campers from Metro Detroit, intends to move forward with camp this summer, provided state guidelines for doing so are released.  

“Although we have not been provided with any reassurances that this will happen, we feel we need to move forward with our planning nonetheless,” an email sent last week to camper families reads.   

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Monday that lifted Michigan’s stay at home order and permitted day camps to open, among other businesses. Residential summer camps should still remain closed under the current order.  

The plan laid out in the email includes some key changes in the camp’s operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of running multiple different sessions, the camp will run one five-week session from July 11 to August 14. Campers will also have the option to only attend the first three weeks of the session.  

There will be no trips of any kind out of camp, and no outside deliveries of personal items or packages will be permitted. Mail will also be restricted to three days a week.  

In an effort to stop campers from bringing COVID-19 into camp with them, campers will have to be symptom-free for 14 days prior to arrival, and Tanuga asks that campers stay socially distant from those outside their household for the two weeks leading up to camp. Families will be asked to keep a log of their camper’s health during this time.  

“That’s not going to be so easy because we know that kids are out not distancing right now as we speak probably,” Tanuga director Sid Friedman told the Jewish News. “There is, through all this, an element of trust… that they’re going to do the right thing and adhere to these requirements before they come to camp.”  

Additionally, one COVID test will be required of each camper two to three days before camp begins, and another one or two tests performed on every camper within their first two weeks at camp.   

Friedman said Tanuga’s outlined plan is based on documents put together by the American Camp Association. Tanuga leadership is in the process of creating their own playbook for the summer that they plan to show to families before camp starts to let them know what will be done in “every foreseeable scenario” related to COVID-19, Friedman said.  

Friedman emphasized that Tanuga leadership has tried to make it clear to parents and staff that camp will look different this summer if it’s able to run.   

“”It’s not just us, it’s the families deciding with us that this is acceptable,” he said.   

The majority of camper families still want to send their children to camp this summer if possible, Friedman said, but some families have decided not to have their kids attend this year.   

When asked what will happen if Michigan’s residential summer camps are still prohibited from opening in July, Friedman said he wasn’t sure.  

“There is a time element. Camp isn’t ‘turn on a switch and we’re open,’” he said. “We need a few weeks to get the place ready, we have to train our staff with all the new protocol. And getting staff to buy in is a huge variable.”   

Still, Friedman is hopeful Tangua will be up and operating this summer, and he said other camps in the area, including Tamarack Camps and Camp Tamakawa, have been supportive as he plans for the session.  

“Are we nervous about it? Certainly. We’re nervous but we’re optimistic,” he said. 

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