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Overnight summer camps cancelled in B.C. due to COVID-19 concerns

Dr. Bonnie Henry confirms overnight kids camps will not be allowed this summer in B.C.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says there isn't a situation where public health officials can safely allow overnight kids camps to operate this summer during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

B.C.’s top doctor has delivered the bad news to overnight summer camps: they are cancelled for 2020.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says after discussions both nationally and with the public health community around the world, the decision was made to encourage overnight summer camps not to open.

“There’s not a situation that we can see this summer where overnight camps for youth [or] school-aged kids can be done in a way that would prevent transmission of this virus,” Henry said.

“I can say my colleagues across the country and in the U.S. as well, that’s the same case.”

Henry says the province is also concerned about many of these camps being in more remote areas where it can be a challenge to access health-care. There are also concerns from some communities that it could be children coming from many different areas and having effects on small communities.

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“We will be encouraging people to focus on day camps,” Henry added.

Camp Qwanoes, a popular overnight camp on Vancouver Island, posted on Facebook that after hearing Henry’s advice they have made the decision to suspend all of their overnight summer 2020 camps.

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“Since mid-March all of us at Qwanoes have remained hopeful and focused on preparing for the summer…we wanted to make sure that we would be ready for whatever would be possible,” the camp’s executive director Scott Bayley writes.

“Our decision is made at the direction from our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, who announced on May 26 that overnight camps will not be allowed this summer in B.C.. The health and safety of our campers, staff, guests and their families is always of highest priority to us.”

Kid’s overnight summer camps cancelled, day camps in limbo
Kid’s overnight summer camps cancelled, day camps in limbo

The summer camp has been open since 1966. This will be the first summer in 55 years the camp is not open for kids to stay overnight.

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Bayley says the decision is heartbreaking and staff is devastated having to call families to tell them camp is off this year.

The camp is also asking for help. They have not been able to run overnight summer camps and on-site programs since mid-March.

READ MORE: No light at the end of the tunnel: What a summer camps shortage means for working moms

Qwanoes says the impact of suspending overnight camps is wide-reaching and affects provincial, national and international staff as well as thousands of campers and families up and down Vancouver Island, throughout Metro Vancouver, and beyond.

“Our future viability is in jeopardy. 75 per cent of our entire annual budget is gone and we need to raise $1,350,000 just to make it through,” Bayley writes.

“As a non-profit camp we have always relied on the partnership and support of people…and today we need this more than ever.”

Qwanoes will provide camp refunds but is also asking families to think about donating the camp dues to help them survive or rolling the dues over to next year.

Bayley says they are still working on day camps and a summer leadership program that is expected to continue.