When school’s out, will camps be open?

Status of summer camps in NY and PA

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ AND OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/21/21

REGION — So far, New York has offered no guidance for summer camps in 2021, according to the American Camp Association’s map (www.bit.ly/nycamps16). That goes for both day camps and …

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When school’s out, will camps be open?

Status of summer camps in NY and PA

Posted

REGION — So far, New York has offered no guidance for summer camps in 2021, according to the American Camp Association’s map (www.bit.ly/nycamps16). That goes for both day camps and sleepaway camps. 

It leaves parents and camp organizations in limbo. 

In those states where sleepaway camps kept operating last year, regular testing, daily temperature checks and keeping campers in pods (so they only interacted with a small group of other campers) seemed key to keeping problems at bay, according to a story by AMNY. (New York didn’t hold sleepaway camps, but other states, such as Maine, Ohio, Texas and Montana, did.) Camps also kept kids outside as much as possible, encouraged hand-washing and didn’t allow visitors. 

A statement from the New York State Camp Directors Association (NYSCDA) argued that kids’ lives have been disrupted by changes in schooling; adding summer camp to the mix last year “has caused extraordinary hardship and damage” (www.ccesuffolk.org/resources/the-case-for-camp-in-2021). 

The financial damage, it says, is significant too—camps are a major source of summer employment and revenue for local businesses. 

The NYSCDA looked at sleepaway camps that did have COVID-19 outbreaks and noted that it was mainly due to relaxing the rules: not enforcing testing or masks, not having adequate ventilation indoors, or not social distancing.

Pennsylvania

Like its neighbor across the Delaware River, Wayne County is home to dozens of sleepaway camps, making them an integral part of the local economy during the summertime. Fortunately for local business owners, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has given parents and camp runners a clearer sense than New York of what to expect this summer. In short, summer camps in the commonwealth are allowed to operate at 75 percent maximum capacity. They’ll still be required to follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.

“Organizations operating summer programming for children and youth should consider the following strategies to maintain physical distancing: If possible, groups should include the same group members each day, and the same staff providers should remain with the same group every day; consider whether to alter or halt daily group activities that may promote transmission; keep each group of children in a separate room or space; limit the mixing of children by staggering playground times and keeping groups separate for special activities such as art, music and exercising; consider staggering arrival and drop off times and/or having staff come outside the facility to pick up the children as they arrive. Your plan for curbside drop-off and pick-up should limit direct contact between parents and staff members and adhere to social distancing recommendations of six feet during this time,” according to the PA Department of Health’s online guidelines.

In addition to following mitigation measures already spelled out for camps by the CDC, Pennsylvania is requiring its summer camps to develop a satisfactorily written health and safety plan and post the plan on a publicly available website prior to launching operations. If a summer program does not have a publicly available website, it will have to find alternative ways to communicate its health and safety plan to parents and caregivers, such as mailing the plan to all registrants or having written information available at drop-off and pick-up locations.

And while the department of health is likely hoping that all eligible residents will get the vaccine, it said that camps cannot make inoculation a requirement for counselors. 

“COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary and cannot be mandated for staff. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are not approved for children younger than 16 years of age.” the department says.

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