FAQs for Summer 2021 Overnight Camp

Last updated: August 10, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. PT

Originally published: February 26, 2021, at 7:52 a.m. PT

The outbreak of COVID-19 has profoundly impacted our communities, businesses, families, and daily lives. Our hearts go out to those affected—particularly to those personally at-risk or who have lost a loved one. The health and well-being of our participants and staff is paramount, and we take the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. We are continuing to monitor the spread and impact of this virus in the Pacific Northwest, and particularly in the areas we operate. At Camp Colman and Camp Orkila, we are asking ourselves to respond the same way we would ask of our participants—with courage, hope, and above all, compassion. Below, please find an update about our summer 2021 programs.  

The responses in these frequently asked questions (FAQs) are best management practices as of April 15, 2021.  We expect that practices will shift in the coming months and will update these FAQs as new information and guidance is received from public health and industry leaders. Thank you for your patience! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will Camp Colman and Camp Orkila offer programs this summer?

Yes! We believe that now, more than ever, there is a need for meaningful and fun outdoor experiences. In conjunction with public health officials, and in alignment with Washington State’s public health measures, we are working to determine how best to offer amazing summer experiences for youth and families. The health and safety of our participants, staff, and community is our top priority.

What programs will be offered this summer?

We plan to provide youth with an overnight experience at YMCA Camp Orkila and Camp Colman. In addition, at Camp Orkila we plan to offer kayaking and day camp programs.  
We will adjust our programs and procedures and continue to prioritize the health of our participants, staff, and volunteers. We are working with our State and County Health Departments and the American Camping Association on policies and procedures to mitigate risk surrounding COVID-19. As these are constantly evolving policies and procedures, we will share more as we approach the summer.

What will overnight camp groups look like this summer? 

With a focus on creating meaningful small group experiences, camp will be divided into “sleeping groups” and “activity groups.”  A “sleeping group,” or “cabin group” will be one cabin group and will remain consistent for both daytime activities and sleeping in cabins/campsites together. 

For traditional campers, sleeping groups, will be single gender. For teen programs, they may be mixed gender.  Activity groups, which may be mixed gender, will be formed by no more than three sleeping groups.  They will remain consistent, and when combined, the activity groups will not exceed 16 campers. 

How will capacities and sleeping arrangements work? 

Our capacities will be determined by sleeping arrangements, as this is the only extended indoor activity. All campers will have at least six feet physical distance from other camper’s heads in cabins or campsites, and bedding will be arranged head-to-toe. 

What will activities and programs look like this summer? 

From archery to swimming, arts to challenge courses, our activities will focus on skill development, self-confidence, group building, and having fun!  Most activities will be done in cabin groups or activity groups. 

Programmed activities will occur in outdoor or open-air settings and campers will remain with consistent cohorts.   We may have “sedentary” outdoor activities like campfires or talent shows, during which a minimum of six feet of social distance will be provided between sleeping groups. 


How will food service work this summer? 

When possible, all eating will occur outdoors in a “grab and go” format.  We will keep a minimum of six feet of distance between cohorts and there will be no sharing of items.  We will utilize staggered scheduled times for meals. 

If indoor eating is necessary due to poor weather, indoor eating facilities will be limited to 50% capacity.  In this case, we will maximize ventilation and maintain a minimum six feet distancing between cohorts. 

What to expect around testing, quarantines, and vaccinations? 

All campers and staff must do one of the following before arriving to camp: 1) be fully vaccinated, OR 2) receive a negative COVID-19 test no more than three days prior to arrival and remain in quarantine between the test and start of camp.  Details on quarantining can be found at the Department of Health’s website.  Anyone unable to meet one of these two conditions is not allowed to participate in camp.  

For the purposes of this policy, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two or more weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or two or more weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen).  Verification of the vaccination or test results is required. 

How do I access COVID testing resources? 

COVID-19 tests are free and widely available at sites across Washington. For information on testing visit the following websites:  

If am not coming from Washington, what precautions should I take? 

All campers traveling from out of state should follow CDC travel guidance

What should I expect around facial coverings (masks)? 

Facial coverings are required to be worn at all times by all staff and campers, and anyone else present at camp, except for when eating, drinking, brushing teeth, or sleeping. 

Exceptions are allowed for specific outdoor activities such as sporting activities, outdoor recreation and water recreation. In these cases, we will follow Washington State COVID-19 requirements for the specific area. 

We recommend that campers bring at least 10 clean and well-fitting facial coverings with them to camp.  

How will check in and check out processes work? 

This summer, due to COVID-19, Camp Colman or Camp Orkila will be our official check-in and check-out location.  When traveling to camp, we strongly encourage that only those in the same household to travel together.  If check in and check out at Camp Orkila poses undo hardship, please contact our camp offices. More information will be posted specific to location in the parent/camper handbook.  Each check in and check out process will be structured to minimize interactions between campers, families and others before establishing sleeping cohorts.  


Will there be bus transportation? 

Currently, we are not planning to have bus transportation to Camp Orkila or Camp Colman. If we are able to safely offer transportation options, we will notify registered families with an update on their options.

Can I visit my camper while they are at camp?

Parents or guardians are allowed to enter camp only in the case of medical emergencies or when needed to bring home a camper early.  Visitors are not allowed at camp. 

How else will activities be impacted by COVID-19? 

We anticipate the implementation of program modifications, extended cleaning time, and enhanced cleaning procedures during and between sessions, reduced capacities, and a significant focus on small group sizes. The health and safety of participants, staff and volunteers are our top priorities. 

What will happen if public health restrictions are in place during the summer? 

We are committed to following the recommendations of civil authorities and public health officials. If restrictions remain in place that prevent us from operating, we will cancel programs and notify families. Impacted families will have an opportunity to credit their fee towards another program in 2021, make a donation to the Y’s Community Response Fund, or can request a refund.  

What is your COVID Safety Plan?

As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State of Washington, local county Public Health and the American Camp Association, we are applying a multi-layered approach utilizing nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce the chance of COVID-19 introduction and/or spread at camp. These include:

  • Families and staff being informed of pre-camp precautions and expectations.
  • Requiring everyone at camp to either be fully vaccinated or have a verified negative COVID19 test result within 3 days prior to arriving at camp.
  • Implementing drive-through drop-off with assigned drop-off and pick-up times.
  • Implementing arrival day health screenings and temperature checks for everyone at camp.
  • Implementing daily health screenings and temperature checks for everyone at camp.
  • Utilizing our stoplight system for expectations at camp regarding 1) wearing masks, 2) being outdoors and 3) maintaining physical distancing per Washington State and CDC guidance.
    • Green light – in most cases we expect everyone in camp to be following all 3 of these expectations
    • Yellow light – in cases where it is not possible to follow all 3, at least 2 must be in place (i.e. if we cannot keep distance, we must be masked and outdoors)
    • Red light – the only time anyone should be utilizing only one of these measures would be:
      • In their personal bunk in their cabin, at which time physical distancing must be maintained
      • In the event of an emergency
      • In the case of a pre-approved, verified small group of vaccinated individuals  
  • Requiring masks at all times except during eating, drinking, sleeping, showering and swimming or as indicated in the Washington State guidance for Outdoor Recreation
  • Assigning a specific area for each camper and staff member’s belongings
  • Ensuring campers are situated in bunks in a way that ensures at least 6 feet physical distance head to head
  • Keeping cabin windows open at all times to increase airflow and ventilation
  • Providing grab & go style meals.
  • Requiring campers and staff to wash hands frequently
  • Posting signs near all sinks with reminders for appropriate handwashing techniques
  • Requiring campers and staff to sanitize hands when arriving and departing an activity area
  • Cleaning and sanitizing shared areas frequently utilizing products approved for COVID-19
  • Maintaining “cohorts” of up to 2 cabin groups of not more than 16 campers which will remain the same throughout the session and will not mix with other cohorts.
  • Maintaining “pods” of 1 cabin group that does not mix with any group other than the assigned cohort “pod”
  • For larger sedentary camp activities, like a campfire, maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance between pods.
  • Administering a rapid antigen COVID test to anyone at camp who is not vaccinated on the 3rd day of each session of 5 days or longer. Mid-week testing does not apply to participants in day camp or expedition programs at Camp Orkila.

In the event of any COVID-like symptoms

  • The individual will be isolated and provided a rapid antigen test.
  • Caregivers of camper with symptoms will be contacted and must make immediate arrangements to pick up their camper.
  • Caregivers will be asked to obtain a PCR test for the camper and notify camp of the results. In the event of a positive antigen or PCR test
  • YMCA camp staff will contact the County Health Department to inform them of the positive test and follow their guidance.
  • All other campers and staff in that cabin, as well as anyone who is determined to be a close contact, will be provided a rapid antigen test.
  • Caregivers of all campers who shared a cabin with the affected camper will contacted to pick up their campers, asked to obtain a PCR test and notify camp of the result, and advised to quarantine per Washington State DOH guidelines.
  • Non-vaccinated staff will quarantine and be provided a PCR test.

In the event of an outbreak (2 or more cases epidemiologically linked to camp) YMCA camp staff will be in contact with the County Health Department and will follow their guidance. Caregivers of any campers who are either exhibiting symptoms, receive a positive rapid antigen test, or were a close contact of anyone with a positive COVID-19 test will be notified and must make immediate arrangements to pick up their camper.

Medical Training of Camp Colman staff
Camp Colman employs a Camp Nurse who is typically an RN or LVN. They are on-site at all times when youth or teen camp is in session. Additionally, all staff are trained in CPR & First Aid. Lifeguards have additional certifications in First Aid, CPR & Lifeguard training.

Medical Training of Camp Orkila staff
Camp Orkila’s medical team is comprised of staff and volunteer providers. A provider is available at all times when youth or teen camp is in session. Additionally, staff are trained in CPR and First Aid. Lifeguards have additional certifications in First Aid, CPR & Lifeguard training.

Medical assistance will be rendered in the event of any COVID-like symptoms.

What is required of my child before camp to be able to attend?

Per Washington State requirements all campers and staff must do one of the following before arriving to camp:

  1. be fully vaccinated, OR
  2. receive a negative COVID-19 test no more than three days prior to arrival and remain in quarantine between the test and start of camp. Details on quarantining can be found at the Department of Health’s website. Anyone unable to meet one of these two conditions is not allowed to participate in camp.

For the purposes of this procedure, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two or more weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or REV 05.23.21 BC Moderna) or two or more weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen).

Official written verification of the vaccination (vaccination card, medical record from physician, verification from state vaccination database or the like) or test results is required.

To utilize the negative COVID-19 test option, please see CDC airline checklist for details on what is required to verify a negative test result. This checklist will be what we will require for camp to verify negative test results.

To locate COVID-19 testing:

If your family has difficulty locating a testing location or getting to a testing location, please contact YMCA staff at campinfo@seattleymca.org for assistance.

Parents of youth ages 12-15, as the Pfizer vaccine has just been approved for this age group, campers of this age can be vaccinated rather than tested. Please be aware that the minimum amount of time it will take from first dose to “full vaccination” status is 5 weeks as there is a required 3 week wait between doses and then they must be 2 weeks past the final dose.

Another important note about scheduling vaccinations and camp: Because some individuals experience some symptoms that are part of the health screen, we recommend you do not schedule your camper to be at camp in the week following either vaccination dose. Being administered the vaccine does not allow us to forego the screening requirements.

How will you address health and safety concerns around COVID-19 for participants, staff, and volunteers? 

Camp Colman and Camp Orkila’s eligibility criteria and health screening processes will be updated as needed to minimize, as far as practical, the risk of transmission of COVID-19 occurring at camp. The requirements for participants will depend on preferred practice at that time, as determined by: Guidance from federal and local health authorities, like the CDC, and state health departments for schools, camps, guided recreation activities, and businesses and the types of tests, vaccinations, and other screening tools considered to be highly reliable and widely available at that time.  

What steps are camp taking around staff and COVID-19? 

For overnight camps, if staff leave in between sessions, they must either be vaccinated or test on their return. Unvaccinated counselors are not permitted to leave camp on days or nights off. Vaccinated staff may leave the camp on time off, and camp will make them aware of the best practices they can independently follow to mitigate spread during time they spend off camp property.

Will you be providing COVID-19 tests at camp?

For sessions 5 days (4 nights) or longer, all non-vaccinated participants, staff and volunteers will take a Rapid Antigen test, administered by camp staff/volunteers three days into the camp session.

What steps are you taking to minimize the risk of someone contracting COVID-19? 

In addition to the programmatic steps outlined above, we continue to develop a comprehensive set of policies and procedures specific to COVID-19. Our leadership team has reviewed and will continue to update necessary protocols to comply with, or exceed, governmental guidelines to reduce risk of exposure. These include but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Daily health screenings for all participants and staff. 

  • Extra vigilance around cabin, building and bathroom sanitation, including increased deep cleaning in high traffic areas and thorough disinfecting of cabins between sessions. 

  • All staff will be reminded to promote regular hand washing and good hygiene practices. Additional hand washing and hand sanitizer stations have been added. 

  • Program area, equipment protocols, and sanitization practices have shifted to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19. 

  • Large group gatherings will be adjusted to align with current requirement of local, state, and federal orders. 

  • Physical distancing practices follow the recommendations of the state and county and are in place for guests, staff, and volunteers. 

  • Guests, staff, and volunteers will follow mask wearing recommendations of the state and county. 

What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19 while at camp?

In the event of a positive rapid antigen COVID-19 test of any camper or staff

  • YMCA staff will administer a rapid antigen test to all staff and campers in the cohort
  • Caregivers of all campers in the cabin/pod will be contacted and must make immediate arrangements to pick up their camper
  • YMCA staff will notify County Health Department
  • YMCA will work with County to determine whether or not the staff and campers in the other cabin in that cabin’s cohort are considered “close contacts”. If they are determined to be close contacts, caregivers of the campers in that cabin will be contacted to make immediate arrangements to pick up campers.
  • Caregivers of any campers being sent home will be encouraged to obtain a PCR test for COVID-19 for their camper and to notify YMCA staff of results
Will I have to pick up my child early from camp?

For the safety of all, we are unable to keep ill campers at camp. If a determination is made by YMCA staff that your camper must go home due to illness or COVID-19 symptoms, positive test or close contact, caregivers are expected to be able to have someone pick up your camper within 2 hours plus drive time from your home address to camp. (i.e. for Camp Colman if you live in Bellevue and drive time to camp is 1 hour 20 min., you will need to ensure someone can be at camp to pick up your child within 3 hours & 20 min – drive time plus 2 hours) It is imperative that all families have a plan in place to be able to pick up their camper if notified and that YMCA has multiple emergency contact numbers for each camper.

Who is guiding your health and safety plans? 

We are being guided by federal, state, and local health officials and working in regular consultation with our partners at the American Camp Association, Y-USA, to ensure that we have effective protocols in place to successfully run our programs.  

Can I make a cabinmate request? 

Due to reduced capacity, you can make a maximum of one cabinmate request. Cabinmate requests must be mutual. 

How do waitlists work? 

Open spots will be released to participants on the waitlist in the order they signed up. Once a spot has been released, the first participant on the waitlist will receive an email with a link to register. The link will be active for five days before moving on to the next participant in the waitlist queue. Once summer sessions begin, the response time will be adjusted to 24-48 hours for waitlist response time. 

What’s the refund policy if I choose to cancel my session? 

Deposits are non-refundable. To receive a refund, you must notify us by June 1 if your camper is unable to attend camp. Please allow two weeks for processing refunds. Any cancellations or refund requests received after June 1, 2021 will be at the discretion of the YMCA. 

What are the three price tiers? What do they mean? How do I choose? 

We recognize that each family has a unique budget, and we’ve developed a tiered payment structure to meet different family circumstances. You’ll self-select into the tier appropriate for your family’s budget. Staff at camp will not know what tiers each family has selected; we will offer the same high-quality camp experience to all families. 

  • Tier 3 reflects the full cost of operating camp and sustaining our program throughout the season and the year. If you are able to pay this amount, please do. 

  • Tier 2 is a partially-subsidized rate to help families who can't afford the full program cost. 

  • Tier 1 represents a more substantial subsidy for families who need assistance to attend our programs. While this tier covers specific costs related to your attendance, like meals and program supplies, it does not account for year-round operating costs. Choose this rate if it best meets your family circumstance. 

Our goal is to remove barriers that prevent anyone from participating in our programs, including financial barriers. If our lowest tier price creates a financial barrier that prevents you from participating in our programs, we invite you to fill out a Financial Assistance Application prior to registration opening. Once we have reviewed your application, you will receive a code by email that you can use at checkout to automatically apply your approved award. 

Category: Camp