Will summer camps open this year?

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — On a conference call on May 6, Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw said that under current conditions, she is opposed to the opening of the many summer camps in Sullivan County this year. She said, “My recommendation up to this point is that we do not open given the current circumstances,” she said.

She joins State Sen. Jen Metzger and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther in opposing the opening of the camps. Also, Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Veglianti said on the same conference call, “Fallsburg won’t stay quiet. I will encourage people not to open. It will be a state decision and the county will either be helpful or not helpful. We’re not putting our kids and our staff at risk.”

The decision about whether or not to allow the camps to open will be made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his public comments have not thus far indicated whether he is leaning one way or the other.

State Health Department spokeswoman Jill Montag said on May 4, “The opening of children’s camps this summer season is under consideration, and any decisions made will be part of the comprehensive plan to lift the Governor’s PAUSE order.”

On the other side of the issue, the Association of Jewish Camp Owners (AJCO) in Sullivan County issued a letter to elected officials urging them not to oppose the opening of the camps.

The letter read in part, "Camps will be run differently this summer. We are interested in the safety and welfare of all our campers and staff, and plan to run camp completely differently this summer. As can be seen from the attached draft guidelines, each and every camper and staff member will be tested prior to their coming to camp.

"Once in camp, we will enforce a full and complete lockdown in addition to implementing a regimen of wellness checks in our daily schedule. There will be no out-of-camp trips, no visiting day [and] staff will not be permitted to leave on their day off.

"Overnight camps are unique in that we can enforce a full and total lockdown. Additionally, we will not have any dual use facility. AJCO overnight camps that have a day camp are seriously considering canceling their day camps for this summer.

"Many of the campers and staff that are in our camps have families with second homes or bungalows. If there is no sleep away camp, there will be thousands of youth with unstructured time on their hands roaming the Catskills.

"If… there is any kind of COVID-19 outbreak, local health facilities will not be overwhelmed. Hatzoloh group has assured county leaders that they will transport the ill to city hospitals (which are currently well below capacity and dropping daily)."

The association represents 68 camps in Sullivan County.

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