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Muskoka overnight camp temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 outbreak

Click to play video: 'Muskoka Woods decides to cancel overnight camp for week due to COVID-19' Muskoka Woods decides to cancel overnight camp for week due to COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: As Catherine McDonald reports, the camp made the decision just hours after children were dropped off for the week-long session – Aug 2, 2021

Hundreds of campers who had planned on attending an overnight camp in the Muskoka region this week have been sent home due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

In an email sent to parents late Sunday afternoon and just a few hours after drop-off at the Rosseau, Ont., overnight camp, families with children attending week five of Muskoka Woods Camp were informed that the camp was being cancelled for the week.

“At the arrival, we mentioned to each of you that Muskoka Woods was in an outbreak situation due to a number of positive cases in one cohort,” the email said.

Read more: Ontario camps pivot to offering rentals, family programs to salvage season

“At 5 p.m., just as arrival was taking place, we discovered an additional positive case that is outside of the original cohort. With the health and safety of our guests and staff being top priority, we are making the very difficult decision to cancel week five of Muskoka Woods.

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“We have consulted with our medical team and other public health officials and believe this is the best course of action.”

The email asked that parents picked up all campers as soon as possible and if they were not able to return to camp Sunday evening, they were asked that the children be picked up by noon on Monday.

A number of parents took to social media to express their disappointment, but support of the camp’s decision to close.

“Shortest camp stay in history …. four hours @muskokawoods closed due to COVID-19,” Kevin Cardwell posted.

“We made it to drop off, then called three hours later to come pick up as another case had been discovered. Several cases from last week’s guests emerged.”

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Summer camps more than a breath of fresh air for kids – Jul 29, 2021

Kemptville, Ont., resident Sherrie Mae Guthrie said she took her fully vaccinated 12-year-old son Beckett to the camp on Sunday.

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“When we arrived, they were very forthcoming — they let us know there was a COVID case in the camp,” Sherrie told Global News.

“They [couldn’t] tell us if it was a camper or counsellor. We drove up to the cabin, dropped all his bags off, and we left.”

She said not long after she left, her son called her and said that he needed to be picked up immediately.

“So we turned around from Barrie, made our way back up to camp and then picked him up,” Sherrie said.

“Every person there, everyone looked like they were about to cry. Everyone was sad, apologetic. You know what I’ve been there, we have to follow the public health guidelines.”

She said her son was disappointed, but said that the camp counsellors did “a great job” in organizing a quick pickup and ensuring masking.

Read more: Overnight summer camps opening up in Alberta after year-long COVID-19 hiatus

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Beckett, who was only at the camp for four hours, said he got to his bunk and then found out that the camp was being cancelled.

“I was pretty upset because it was my first camp experience and I bought all this stuff for camp,” he said.

In a statement released Monday afternoon by John McAuley, the camp’s CEO, said, “Our hearts are aching for all the kids who missed out on everything that
summer camp has to offer.”

The letter to parents contained an apology from staff and a commitment to process refunds for the week.

On its website, Muskoka Woods outlined its COVID-19 protocols. For example, guests are cohorted by cabin for activities, meals, evening programs and free time. Children were also asked to present negative PCR tests upon arrival at the camp and screening is performed.

A parent who did not want to be identified told Global News he believed the camp was hoping to re-open next week after fully cleaning and disinfecting the premises.

About 350 campers in total are believed to be affected by the shutdown.

— With files from Ryan Rocca

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