Summer camps across Oklahoma are going to look different this year. COVID-19 is forcing camps to cancel, go digital or take extreme measures to keep campers safe.
The state’s reopening plan said summer camps could begin June 1, but the decision to open this summer has weighed heavily on Tom Graney, the executive director of New Life Ranch in Colcord, Okla.
"We’ve had lots of agonizing, frustrating, stimulating conversations and debate about... so we’ve got the OK, but does that mean we do it?," Graney said.
He decided to open his northeastern Oklahoma camp and counselors there are going to extremes to protect kids.
Graney says two weeks before they even arrive at the Christian-focused camp, children will have to go through health screenings. When they get there, they’ll be kept in separate groups to maintain social distancing, there will be strict cleaning protocols and dropoff and pickup will be done in shifts to limit in-person contact.
"We still have thousands of kids that are wanting to come. Their parents are wanting to send them," Graney said. "And so we wanted to be able to do that still rather than just shut camp down and just not have it at all."
New Life Ranch is seeing a decrease in participation, though. Graney says the 4,000 kids coming this summer is an 18 percent drop in campers from last year.