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Should Summer Camp Be Held?

Are BSA and local councils being good citizens, helpful to others, courteous to vulnerable members of society, and kind to others by proceeding forward with summer camps? The Circle Ten Trevor Reeves-Jones Scout Camp, and I imagine others, have said they intended to proceed forward with camp this summer, but they don’t offer any mitigation plans for dealing with COVID-19.

Perhaps I am the only one whole feels odd while filling out medical forms A, B, C with questions about more fortunately uncommon diseases in the US, and yet there is no check box for the COVID-19 immunization (which I know doesn’t exist) or an antibody test, or taking a COVID-19 test just before arriving at camp, but this COVID-19 is much more likely to be brought into a camp and spread than any other item on the form.

Searching the internet, I’ve seen other non-Scout camps at least try to mitigate the risk by taking steps like taking everyone’s temperature when arriving on-site, making staff show up two weeks early, closing cafeterias to switch to campsite meals, prohibiting visitors and parent days, cancelling all camp-wide gatherings like campfires and flag ceremonies, or changing programs to create mini non-interacting groups. I haven’t seen evidence of Scout Camps taking precautionary steps, at least not from TRJ.

Even with precautionary steps, the risk remains high. Studies have shown that 50-60% of those with COVID-19 are a “Typhoid Mary”, spreading the virus without showing symptoms including a temperature. Many have proposed that companies with large staffs will have to have access to rapid testing of COVID-19 before allowing employees to work closely. Isn’t a camp with 400+ people similar in situation?

While timelines are still in flux, the President’s 3 phase program may mean that some areas are still in phase 2, limiting gatherings to 50 people. I think almost every Scout camp is larger than that. While other camps may be in areas in phase 3, the Scouts are not all from the local area. Most Scouts go to a camp in another county. Some have said that summer school cannot be held, so why is camp any better? Others are preparing for cancellation of school in the fall, or reducing classroom populations by half by alternating school days.

As a Scout leader, I am concerned that BSA and the councils are not showing leadership. Leaders are also parents. Perhaps BSA is creating a game of chicken to keep the camp deposits. Are you concerned about your child’s health, or more likely, coming home and spreading COVID-19 to other family members even if the child has no symptoms?

I think it’s more than a little disrespectful to make the assumption that the “BSA is creating a game of chicken to keep camp deposits”.

Our local council has set a decision timeline in place for summer camps that aligns with our governor’s mitigation plan for coronavirus. They’ve made the commitment that if camps are cancelled, full refunds will be made to any unit that signed up. On top of that, they’ve told us that any Scouts backing out of camp this summer, for essentially any reason, will get their money back.


Our council announced that even if they hold camp a unit or individual can drop and get a full refund, including deposits.

Camps are the decision of the local council as an independent entity. Talk to your council for their specific decisions. The BSA as a national entity is making zero decisions around local camps, only national camps like Summit or Philmont.


I know that councils have to make a choice: cancel now assuming that there won’t be camp at all, or continue preparing as if things are going forward, even if they may have to cancel/postpone later. Our OA lodge is usually well into the thick of helping prepare the camps for summer occupancy (clearing brush, setting up tents, various scout-level maintenance and repair tasks) by now. All of our activities are postponed due to the social distancing orders.

At the same time as we’re usually doing a lot of the physical labor prep, the staff (professional and volunteer) are generally scheduling and prepping programs, merit badges, rank advancement, and activities. Some of that can continue while isolated. Our camps are “preparing” as best they can in the hope that they will be able to provide programs for the scouts. I don’t think anybody is contemplating playing chicken with the deposits. I know the camp my son is registered for has already committed to a full refund if camp is cancelled. They have not said anything about what happens if a scout or unit pulls out but the council goes forward. That said, I’m not particularly expecting that camp will actually be permitted to go forward.


I know of one council holding an event online this weekend with a another in a couple of weeks that is a dry run for a “Plan B” for summer camp. Every thing from Bugle calls, SPL notices for the day, SM Minute to camp.

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We just did one here (Camp Wingit) that was a digital “not-a-camporee”. We had > 150 distinct connections on our events, and I think many more than that in terms of scouts participating (based on the number of multiple-scout households). Camp Wingit flies again next month.

Like other councils, Northern Star Council has said if camps are cancelled all families will receive a full refund. In addition any family or unit that cancels at least 1 week before the start of camp will receive a full refund. They have no intention of keeping any deposits.


I would contend that leaders don’t make snap decisions. But rather line up a plan A, B, and C while relying on the guidance of state and local authorities. So, at the end of this month, we all will decide what to do next month, at the end of next month we all will decide what to do the month after that, and so on.That’s definitely not the American way of doing things.

This is definitely frustrating. And for some people it feels like a blind-side. There is a reason why our nation’s leaders talked about “flattening the curve” instead of “stretching out the deaths”. They needed to sell us a strategy for the here-and-now, not for the months down the road.

There will come a tipping point where our country is no safer with kids at home than at camp. Camp could be a place to learn about safety precautions, cleanliness, and health. But, my concern is that the staff most able to do that are likely essential workers elsewhere.

All that said, if your troop knows of a nice farm some place where your scouts might plan a week-long camp toward the end of summer and focus on just a couple of badges … this might be the year for doing just that.


We did that the first year with the boys we formed in the fall and only had had one campout before summer show we took the scouts to a state park for a week, we spend each day working on a merit badge if we completed it we started another the next day. That’s are plan b if our state opens up but our camp does notour biggest challenge this time were we had all new scouts who could all take let’s say canoeing this time around will have to come up with options for our first years and star and above scouts. But even this option is looking less and less likely

I don’t think summer camps should be held this summer. There are some places where the virus is now starting to get out of control. I don’t think it’s a good idea to take chances like that and besides I am sure a lot of parents will be reluctant to send their kids to camp and be around others

The councils and camps should follow the guideline of their local political jurisdiction. Scouts and Scouters should follow the guidelines of their own doctors. None of us should follow the guidelines of “I read on the internet.”

Personally, I plan to pay for summer camp and maybe I will go, maybe not. Time will tell.


Seems to me that the safest place we can be is outside. The evidence so far does not indicate that outdoor gatherings cause spread. Indoors with AC units creating an airflow to push particulates to people even further than 6 ft away is the biggest problem. Almost all of the current cases involve some sort of assisted living.

Individuals need to decide for themselves and it is great that those decisions can be made in two months instead of today, but the risk of contracting outdoors or of youth contracting and getting deathly ill is lower than for the normal flu. (Remember, the seasonal flu does disproportionately impact youth, Covid-19 is just the opposite.)

As adults, we have been given the capacity to make risk/reward decisions and this is no different.

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Respectfully, I must say that BSA should come out with guidelines and be taking a more proactive stance than leaving everything up to local councils. This is a national crisis that requires our BSA leaders to step up and lead the organization through these unfamiliar times. To protect all of the scouts and protect scouting for future generations, we can’t have 272 councils creating different plans, especially when scouts travel between councils to participate in the different events.

Because of the lack of national leadership and guidance, I believe our BSA leadership is being disrespectful of our scouts and their families by keeping them guessing on what scouting activities should and should not take place. Is camp happening or not happening, do we try to make our travel arrangements or continue to wait? School districts across the country closed because they know that COVID-19 is not going away and there is no vaccine to protect our children from it. Summer camps and other scouting activities that have large number of attendees should follow this same advice. Even if scouts wear mask, add additional cleaning between sessions, and implement social distancing, is BSA or local councils willing to risk the health and safety of our scouts and leaders and willing to accept medical and legal responsibility for those risk?

Social distancing can be practiced in small group settings but the more individuals that are around, the more social distancing is strained. Example is going to the grocery store. Everyone is practicing social distancing but then must still pass by each other going down isles, etc. This will be the same at camp. You can have less people sitting at the dining tables, but the tables also need to be six feet apart which means there will be less tables in the dining hall. But then scouts must still pass through the tables and walk within close proximity to other scouts to put away dishes and clean the dining area. The same break in social distancing will occur in the latrines, swimming areas (not even sure how you could swim with a mask on), shooting ranges, tents, etc.

And it is wishful thinking to think that all of our scouts will practice social distancing and wear masks and gloves properly. Our scouts are kids and of all ages. They play together, learn together, grow together. Adults have difficulty following safe mitigation practices. To expect that all of our scouts will is unreasonable.

A scout is clean is an ideal we all strive for. But we all know how our scouts smell like and what their clothes and gear look like when they return from camp.

While I am just as disappointed as everyone else, for the safety of our scouts, BSA should cancel all in-person camp activities for the summer and focus on offering virtual experiences for our scouts. Without a vaccine, an inability to test every scout before coming to camp, and an inability to implement 100% mitigation factors at all times, there is no safe way to participate in in-person scout camp.


Why should the BSA make a national policy when the situation in New York is vastly different than Montana for example?

Councils are listening to their state governments, the CDC and other experts when determining how to proceed.


I agree, the situation is vastly different depending on the area. However, scouts attend out-of-state and out-of-council camps every year. And all of the high adventure camps are not governed by local councils. So while New York may have closed all summer camps, those scouts may decide or were already planning on attending camps in Montana. To avoid confusion and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 from one council to another, it would be easy for BSA national to close the high adventure camps through the summer and discourage out-of-council travel or out-of-council camp participation. Local councils could then continue to set their own in-council guidelines.

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I don’t know that I would classify a decision to close all of the high-adventure camps as “easy”, but I get the simplicity-of-interpretation it would present. It seems like it would be more practical for individual councils, rather than nationals, to deny/discourage out-of-council (or out of area, really) participation at camps. That said, I can see how it would be a major impact in some councils, since the majority of the attendees may be from out of council, and the council may not be able to run the camp at all without out-of-council participation.

In the end, I believe that the local councils need to follow the directives form their local health departments, rather than relying on whatever recommendations nationals decides to put out. Nationals for all their best efforts, is fundamentally not a public health agency, and would be doing their best to interpret public health directives in a BSA (and liability-related) context. For example, our local situation was changing so fast a month ago that the county I live in was ~ 5 days ahead of the county I work in with implementing restrictions. My home county issued a shelter-at-home order on Wednesday, and the county I work in issued essentially the same order the following Monday. I suspect that it will be similar as states and localities start trying to ease restrictions and we see what the impacts are. Local health departments will be scrambling to adjust the public health orders to the developing epidemiological situation. It’s like trying to titrate dosing in a patient when all of the effects of the dosing changes take several days to a week to take effect, and your patient monitoring telemetry takes a couple of days to be received after it’s measured.


Robert, I agree with you. I’m very concerned about summer camp and I know they are money makers for Councils, but I have to worry about my Scouts. I saw another comment that some camps were looking to offer refunds if people wanted them and I can tell you that if that was offered from the camp we are going to I would jump on it. I love summer camp, but now is not the right time to be meeting in large groups.


I registered my troop and paid all fees for summer camp at Emerald Bay (Western Los Angeles County Council). I have not heard a peep for the council. Canceled? Not canceled? Postponed? Refund? No refund? They do not answer their phone or reply to voicemail or emails. Nothing.

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Just my perspective that I think it is too early and the situation too fluid to make a blanket statement that all summer camps should be closed. The suggestion that camps should follow the policies of their respective locales makes a lot more sense for the reasons people have cited to this approach.


I’d suggest that you stay home then Robert if you’re that concerned. There has been a TON of alternate data and modeling since this whole ‘crisis’ started. Most are just too intelligently lazy to seek it out and just assume that what they’re hearing from the mainstay media is accurate. But don’t look to spoil a fun and meaningful event that became you’re a hypochondriac.

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