Settings at sleepaway camps too risky, New York health commissioner says

Overnight Camps Won’t Happen This Summer




While day camps gear up to start at the end of the month, New York State health officials have put the kibosh on sleepaway camps opening this summer due to the novel coronavirus.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said late Friday afternoon that the close living quarters at overnight camps poses too many risks when it comes to the spread of the virus. Although Dr. Zucker did not specifically mention it in his statement, state officials have been concerned about a COVID-related multi-system inflammatory disease seen in children that has killed at least three.

“Throughout this entire public health response, there isn’t a single decision we have not made based on data and science, rather than emotion. Using the best currently available science and data, I have reached a decision to prohibit overnight children’s camps from operating this season in New York State,” he said in a statement.

Day camps are still allowed to open June 29. However, in-classroom summer school was also canceled throughout the state last month.

But, sleepaway camps present far greater risks, the health commissioner said. “In such a setting, even a single positive case in a camper or staff member could create an untenable quarantine situation and overwhelm camp health personnel that may not be able to handle a serious infectious outbreak of this nature.”

Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island, which has an overnight camp as a well as a day camp, made the decision back on May 15 to cancel all programs this summer. “We have analyzed, reflected, and run in-depth scenarios of what our programming could look like this summer while keeping our campers and staff healthy and safe. In each instance the challenges pivot and become more complex, and the risks seem insurmountable,” Brooke Bradley, the executive director, said in the announcement.

While the infection rates throughout New York State have been declining, Dr. Zucker said the state must still be cautious and avoid any situation that could undo the state’s progress.

“I have fond memories of summer sleepaway camp as a kid and I understand the role they play in childhood development and the disappointment this decision may bring to families across the state. But amid the worst public health crisis in a century, my number one priority is the health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

taylor@indyeastend.com