Yesterday a group of children and staff at the JEA tested COVID positive. Just writing the words is jarring.
Once we were informed about the infections we did everything we could to share the information with all our camp families. We emailed and texted each and every family to make sure they knew that "in an abundance of caution" (the phrase of the year), we were cancelling the last day of camp for the season. We informed the JEA and Federation Boards and our staff. Transparency is more than an axiom. The more that people know, the better they are equipped to deal with the situation.
As you can imagine, thus began a flurry of emails, texts, and phone calls… and it was natural to happen. Everyone is searching for information, everyone needs to learn, everyone is worried.
Most of the queries we received were natural questions: What will happen next week? (those that had direct exposure will have to quarantine, those who are not affected are eligible to return). Was my child in that cohort? Are the staff members vaccinated? (Yes, the vast majority of those eligible to be vaccinated are and many of them immediately went for testing today (all negative)). Where do I go for a COVID test for my child?
You can imagine, the questions went on an on. I expected and was prepared for most of them.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the overwhelming statements of support:
Thank you again for all you have done to keep our children as safe as possible. You all are certainly in a difficult position, and we appreciate it.
You guys have been amazing and [my daughter] has such a blast (her words)
Thank you both for everything you've done--and continue to do--to make this challenging year(s) successful. Don't let this moment dampen that; you're doing wonderful things for our kids and making work possible for so many of us. We'll get through this. Thank you again and stay safe!
I know you are working to do your best to keep our kids and their families safe!
Our family has total trust in your methods towards battling COVID and are thankful to have you involved, having you at point and watching our six.
And there were dozens more. We don’t share these comments to pat ourselves on the back but to share the thoughtfulness of our families. At a time of crisis with their children, they thought for our staff. If we didn’t know that this battle with COVID was a true partnership, we certainly know it now.
But back to the end of camp….It was bittersweet. Staff didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye to campers. Campers didn't need to say goodbye to their new friends. It feels like we ran a marathon and stopped in the last mile, unable to finish. Yet, yet.....
We've gone through the last 18 months with hundreds of children in the building-preschoolers, elementary, and teens with almost zero infections, and then this happens. We’ve had plenty of threats and potentials, but no real direct exposures.
It is a testament to our committed staff of teachers at the Preschool and counselors and department leaders of our Children’s, Camping, and Fitness programs. They did everything in their imagination and more to make our children and family’s health their primary focus. We podded or cohorted, we cleaned and cleaned again, we wore our masks, we washed our hands, we went through gallons of hand sanitizer. And yet it happened.
We are very appreciative of the advice of our local health officials who gave us the guidance on how to proceed and while there are reams of instructions from the CDC, State, and a myriad of health organizations, until it happens to you, you need those calm experienced voices validating and guiding what you are doing.
Thankfully, so far, all of the children and families we have heard back from are doing OK...some fevers, some congestion, some Motrin and bedrest will hopefully address the issues. Hopefully, the statements about children's resilience is spot on.
This is not the COVID we originally were dealing with…this Delta variant has a much higher viral load and therefore is much more transmittable to others.
And so, with an abundance of caution (I told you it was the phrase of the year)
- The JEA Preschool has now instituted a mask policy for all children 2 and up. While we had no infections over the past year and a half we have now taken the next step to care for those children who don’t have a choice to be vaccinated;
- The Federation has postponed bringing Food for Thought back in person. While we believe that almost every person who attends Food for Thought is vaccinated (currently it is reported that nationally, 87% of those 65 and older have received at least one vaccine), with the current meteoric rise (the Community Transmission Index has risen from 111 to 404 in two weeks) it seemed prudent to postpone.
We will continue to monitor the situation and act as prudently as possible on behalf of our community. In the meantime,…do your part:
- If you are not vaccinated. March down to one of the free providers and get your vaccine;
- Wear your mask when you are inside facilities with others;
- Wash your hands with soap and hot water;
- Use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available;
- Distance as much as possible whenever possible.
If we all do our part we will turn the tide and return to our BC (before COVID) lives.
Gezunterhait (Good Health) and Shabbat Shalom