With coronavirus restrictions easing, camp operators are still hoping to bring kids back for a summer ritual that in many places is falling victim to the pandemic.
Day camps likely could open in June, in the second phase of the state’s four-step economic reopening, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has said. The state’s process depends on progress in the battle against COVID-19 infections and deaths. Should camps open, they’ll likely face limits on capacity and new safety requirements.
Overnight camps would allowed under a third phase of reopening. But that could be weeks if not months away, an uncertainty that’s prompting some to cancel their plans for this summer.
State health officials are working with local health agents and the medical community to write safety guidelines for more than 1,400 camps across Massachusetts. Their rules are expected to be released in coming weeks.
In the meantime, day camp operators say they will follow whatever restrictions the state recommends.
The pandemic has forced more than 14,000 camps in the United States to make hard choices about whether to open this summer, and if so, what kinds of restrictions to put on campers, counselors and their activities.
Many overnight camps in New England have already made the call not to open, rather than face the vagaries of containing COVID-19.
A field guide created by the American Camping Association and the YMCA of America details how summer camps can operate safely during the pandemic.
The guide, based on recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests assigning campers and counselors to small groups for all daily activities involving close contact, such as sports. The guide doesn’t suggest a specific limit but notes that most states recommend 10 or fewer people per group.
It also recommends screening of campers and staff for COVID-19 symptoms and suggests they be tested for the virus, if possible.
Even if summer camps are allowed to reopen, it’s unclear whether parents will feel comfortable sending their kids.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.