Keeping summer camps COVID free

Some summer camps are going to great lengths to keep campers safe this summer.

At Camp Tawonga near Yosemite, organizers say hundreds of campers have already been able to come together COVID-free after they took several precautions.

"Families quarantined before their kids came to camp. Everybody took a PCR test before coming. And then every bunk was a pod for the first 5 days. So those 12 kids ate meals together, slept in the same cabin, did all their activities with just their bunk. And then they did another round of PCR tests and when those were all negative, we were able to pod the whole camp," explained Jamie Simon, CEO of Camp Tawonga.

360 kids between the ages of 7 and 17 are spending 3 weeks together playing soccer, swimming and strolling.

The almost century-old camp extended its sessions to reduce exposure, and adopted a new outdoor dining pavilion because of pandemic precautions.

After all the COVID tests cleared, Simon says she will never forget what it was like seeing the campers singing arm-in-arm for the first time.

"It was just so powerful to see these kids with big smiles on their faces in a beautiful place, in community, after so long being isolated and alone," said Simon. "It was a very special moment."

At Camp Hi-Sierra, also near Yosemite, the Boy Scouts' Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council is hosting about 300 scouts per week.

"Everybody is so happy to be here in the mountains. It's great," said camp director Bruce Lee.

Anyone 18 and older is required to have a vaccine, while those younger need a vaccine or a negative COVID test.

"Probably 80% of our youth up here that are coming up between (ages) 11 and 17 have been vaccinated, which is an amazing number," said Lee.

He says the counselors are all vaccinated and sleep in cabins, while the campers are limited to two per tent.

The directors of both camps say it's been a memorable summer.

"I think after a year of COVID, of isolation, addiction to technology, that camp is really the antidote," said Simon. "It's everything that COVID and sheltering in place wasn't."

Both camps say they have had zero cases of COVID.

Camp Hi-Sierra says instead, they're dealing with the common cold.

Registration for Camp Tawonga sold out the first day and currently has hundreds of kids on the wait-list.

KTVU reached out to several public health departments, which say camps are required to report COVID cases.

"Thus far, we are not aware of any overnight camp outbreaks that have occurred in Santa Clara County. It is something we continue to monitor and any cases associated with an overnight summer camp would get investigated by our team here," said Dr. Vit Kraushaar, Santa Clara County's Assistant Health Officer.

Dr. Kraushaar advises it's not too late for incoming campers to get vaccinated before they go.