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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Overnight camps across Minnesota are preparing for a return of campers — and a surge in demand — one year after the pandemic cancelled summer plans for thousands of families.

Why it matters: Closures were devastating for the industry's financials, but directors say the bigger losses were for kids.

  • "Kids that didn't go to camp [last summer], not only didn't get the mental health benefits of being outdoors, but they didn't get to be social, gain independence, increase their skills and confidence [while participating] in fun activities," said Niki Geisler, VP of camping for YMCA of the North.

The big picture: Nationwide, about 80% of overnight camps were out of commission last summer, per the American Camp Association, impacting an estimated 19 million kids. This year is shaping up to be much different.

  • "The vast majority are trying to open and operate as much at scale as possible," ACA president and CEO Tom Rosenberg told Torey.

The state of play: After a year of being cooped up, it shouldn't come as a surprise that interest is booming. "Enrollment reports look phenomenal compared to 2019," Geisler said of the Y's day, overnight and family camps.

  • Nearly all the sessions at two Minnesota Girl Scout programs, Camp Elk River in Zimmerman and Camp Lakamaga in Marine on the St. Croix, sold out within days.
  • Camp Foley in Pine River is also reporting high demand, with hundreds of campers enrolled and some age groups almost at capacity.

COVID caveats: Camps are still awaiting updated guidance from MDH, but most plan to follow best practices the ACA developed using experiences from the camps that did open last summer.

  • Pre-arrival testing and social-distancing protocols, including masking and keeping campers in small groups for contact tracing, will be the norm.
  • The precautions worked for Camp Pillsbury in Owatonna, which ran several 2020 sessions with zero COVID-19 cases.
  • "We made accommodations for what we needed and figured out how to have fun anyway," owner Vonda White said.

The bottom line: "Kids are itching for that independence and that opportunity to go to camp and parents are itching for their children to have the opportunity as well," Rosenberg said.

  • "But it's going to require everyone working together to follow these [guidelines]."

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - World

Over 70 dead in worst bombardments between Israel and Hamas for years

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Israeli forces said they had killed a senior Hamas commander in May 12 airstrikes. Gaza's health ministry said children died in the strikes. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 67 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in fighting between Israel's military and Hamas since Monday, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 continued into early Thursday. It come days after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.

Biden admin grants Colonial waiver to ease fuel shortages

Fuel tanks at Colonial Pipeline Baltimore Delivery in Baltimore, Maryland on Monday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration approved a temporary waiver of shipping requirements late Wednesday to help Colonial Pipeline transport fuel, as service resumes across the U.S. following a ransomware attack that that took it offline last week.

Why it matters: The century-old Jones Act requires ships to be built in the U.S. and crewed by American workers, but the waiver means foreign companies can transport gasoline and diesel to areas where there are fuel shortages.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Don McGahn agrees to closed-door interview with House panel on Russia report

Former White House counsel Don McGahn during a discussion at the NYU Global Academic Center in Washington, D.C., in 2019. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former White House counsel Don McGahn agreed Wednesday to speak with the House Judiciary Committee about former President Trump's alleged attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation — with certain conditions, per a court filing.

Why it matters: The agreement ends a two-year standoff after McGahn, a key player in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, repeatedly refused to agree to a subpoena for testimony — resulting in the matter being taken to court.