We’ve all had enough of wearing masks, physical distancing, and washing our hands countless times a day. I’m almost embarrassed to share how much I miss being able to enjoy watching sports, even though, as a born-and-raised Pittsburgher, I know my beloved Pirates once again have no shot at a World Series this year. I miss going to restaurants, shaking hands at the start of meetings, and not worrying about my family being infected with COVID-19 when they go to the grocery store. So far, 2020 has been a tough year. And that level of challenge caused by this pandemic will not be going away any time soon.
For me, it is beyond bizarre that Hidden Valley and Tuckahoe are not open for summer camp as July begins. While we’ve reopened the Service Centers and Scout Shops for business, except for a rare visitor, our buildings have been very, very quiet. It is certainly true today that Pennsylvania is currently faring better than many other states in trying to reopen things. Still, as you’ve seen in recent news reports, the COVID-19 virus can reemerge with a vengeance very quickly. Just ask people living in California, Florida, and Texas.
Parents are longing for their children to be able to resume their normal activities and look forward to returning to school this fall. For those of us whose lives include Scouting, we can’t wait to get back to meetings and activities, to camping and hiking trips. As of now, with all counties in the “green” phase of Pennsylvania’s plan to reopen the state, we can reopen our camps for limited short-term camping opportunities, with careful guidance put in place. For those units ready to resume meetings and activities, we’ve collated guidance from the BSA and public health authorities to help you plan how to get back to Scouting as safely as possible. We have not yet won the battle against COVID-19, and being in an area designated as “green” doesn’t mean “go back to normal.”
If you or your unit plans to use our camps for short-term stays this summer, we’re looking forward to seeing you. The safety of all campers will be our highest priority during your time with us, and we expect that everyone will be vigilant in following the guidance we’ve shared. Please note that as of July 1, PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine expanded PA’s mandatory mask-wearing order to include outdoor settings where individuals “are unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from individuals who are not members of their household.” Should our camp rangers observe that you or unit is not following these guidelines while at camp, please don’t be surprised if they offer some coaching on improving safety practices. Keeping everyone as safe as possible requires action and follow-through, not just words. We need to all work together in this effort.
This morning, I was reading an article by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control. The first sentence of Dr. Frieden’s story hit the nail right on the head for me – “Six months into the pandemic of the novel coronavirus is a good time to look back and ahead. Here’s the bottom line: There’s only one enemy – the virus. We need to overcome the politicization of measures that protect all of us.”
By now, everyone knows the basics – “Wear a mask, wash your hands (or use sanitizer), and watch your distance.” Please, please, please – as much as we all look forward to resuming Scouting activities, take a few minutes to review the BSA’s and public health guidelines for camping and Scouting activities. And work diligently to implement them as fully as possible to keep everyone as safe as we can.
Scouting is resilient, and we are in the early days of beginning our comeback from this pandemic. Like many, I dream of the day where a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available, and our collective nightmare is finally behind us. But until then, we need to be knowledgable and hypervigilant about keeping everyone in Scouting as safe as we possibly can. We can do this!
Yours in Scouting,
Ronald M. Gardner, Jr.
Scout Executive & CEO
Note: This article was updated on July 2, 2020 to include PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s expanded mask-wearing order issued on July 1, 2020.