In times of uncertainty, it is easy to think that the work is ours. It is easy - for me at least - to think that if I work harder, if I am more careful, if I read more deeply, that will lead to success for my plans. And so I remind myself, and I remind you, readers, to find time to pray.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4:6

This is now the fourth update on CoronaVirus and Covid-19, so we have been well and truly in this crisis for almost four weeks now. I have noticed, as I have been writing the updates, and as I read to prepare for them, I am becoming more optimistic, and at the same time, more pessimistic.

Optimism: People are really listening to Public Health Authorities, and staying home, and the curve is flattening. The worst case scenarios (very likely) won't happen. That's tremendously good news. If I am correctly reading the article linked above, there are less than 20 people in Alberta in ICU with Covid-19 as I write this.

Pessimism: I had thought we would flatten the curve, and that's that: we've put this whole ugly mess behind us. The more I hear, the more unlikely that seems. The problem of sustaining success will be difficult, and disruptive to life, in similar ways to the initial effort of flattening the curve: life will not go back to truly "normal" until there is a vaccine, which is perhaps 18 months from now. Everyone was polishing Singapore's trophy in February and March, as they beat down the curve, but the disease has just come roaring back in April. Alberta will be worried about the same thing - clearing wave one at great cost, and then suffering an immediate recurrence in wave two.

Worse, if public health officials know how summer camp works, I think camps will be among the last places to be back to "business as usual," because:

  • Kids are less able to manage the rules of physical distancing. They forget, they are less disciplined, they are harder to manage (imagine telling 100 Junior Campers that they can't touch each other, or their cabin leaders... and they have to wash their hands...)
  • There are also pick-up and drop-offs, so even if we only have 80 kids on site, there might be hundreds more people at camp as staff; and on registration day, even further hundreds driving to drop those kids off (they're mingling for a day, then leaving their kids for one incubation period, and then a pick-up, and all those lovely little disease vectors return home). Yikes. 
  • Unlike a church, or a university/school - our "congregation" comes from such a wide area - from Creston to Lethbridge and from Idaho up to Edmonton. 

It is also clear: for camp 2020, we are already on a tight timeline. The Premier said on Wednesday that we would be doing Social/Physical Distancing for 6-8 more weeks. That's mid-May to early-June, so... in order for camp to really run unimpeded for a full eight-week season, we would have to move very quickly to no restrictions. 

Or look at the lovely chart from the 9 April National Modelling presentation, posted by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada:

You will notice that all three scenarios neatly encompass summer 2020. I am sure that the lack of detail on the axes was deliberate. But there is something in this that we are being told: don't expect this all to end in Spring.

The point is that - even with a manageable number of cases in Alberta - it may be that physical distancing is a public health requirement through the summer. I liked this article about the Calgary Stampede… At this point, the Calgary Stampede has yet to make a decision, but the organizing committee knows that they need to consider, now, "what may be probable, possible and not possible with respect to all programming." That’s pretty much what we are doing, too. 

At this moment, we are sticking with our three-week time horizon. We are still anticipating running a full, strong calendar - which is also what most of our peers are doing. 

But we are also contemplating alternatives, for how camp could work in a world of physical distancing: 

  • Perhaps have families, instead of cabins, as the core functional unit at camp. These might be outtrips, day hikes, or day-camp type programs; or maybe something more ambitious, like a structured adventure “scavenger hunt” that you work through with your family at your own pace;
  • Silent retreats (Isolating by their very nature);
  • Work camps (eg. a small group assigned for a small task for one day at a time);
  • Hangout events (like craft night; paint night; puzzle/game night: small groups of people sign up for an evening and just hangout, gives people some social connection);
  • Guided family hikes (1 COLT could take one family, and each family does a different hike);
  • Family options day camp (rotate, as a single family, through the various camp activities available: archery; canoeing; climbing; drama whatever);
  • Small, short frequent outtrips.

This is a time of massive loss of control. I've been comforted in the last few weeks by Psalm 127:1-2 

Unless the Lord builds the house,

    the builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

    The guards stand watch in vain.

In vain you rise early

    and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat—

    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Apr 14, 2020 By David Graham