Front Page Talking Points


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Camps will reopen with nearly normal summer fun after a year of fear


1.gifShare vaccination news or another Covid update.

2.gifRead about a sporting activity, outdoor program or other event. Sound like fun?

3.gifFind a photo of someone with a face mask. What is she or he doing?

The Covid pandemic shut playgrounds, recreation centers and most camps last summer. But with widespread vaccinations and relaxed federal health restrictions, day camps and sleep-away camps will have a busy season this year. Registrations are at the highest levels ever for many of the YMCA's more than 10,000 camps, it says.

"We are very excited to have camp back on this summer," says Ryan Hove, director of YMCA Camp Watia in Asheville, N.C. It's fully booked, with a waitlist exceeding 300 campers. "There will be some adjustments this year," he adds. "We are going to require masks at camp in a lot of different situations. Dining hall is going to look a little different -- kids are going to be spread out." Many state licensing agency require camps to have procedures for social distancing, monitoring disease symptoms and isolating ill campers to avoid a wider outbreak.

Young people are at extremely low risk of serious illness from Covid. Still, as part of the new cautions, parents probably won’t be able to visit or enter cabins at drop-off, and staff members may not be allowed to leave camp during breaks. Camp activities that involve cabins competing against each other, like traditional Color War competitions, may not happen this year. Similarly, art supplies, toys, books and games are unlikely to be shared.

The federal Centers for Disease Control suggests mask-wearing at camps when possible, even outside. It also recommends reduced capacity in cabins and other indoor areas, as well as daily symptom checks for campers and staff, plus periodic Covid testing for campers. The agency doesn't urge limiting how many people can attend, but advises camps to avoid day trips to amusement parks or movie theaters. Some experts mock its outdoor masks guidelines. "We know that the risk of outdoor infection is very low. We know risks of children becoming seriously ill or even ill at all is vanishingly small," says Dr. Mark Gorelik of Columbia University in New York. "I am supportive of effective measures to restrain the spread of illness. However, the CDC's recommendations cross the line into excess and are, frankly, senseless. Children cannot be running around outside in 90-degree weather wearing a mask."

YMCA leader says: "There is a huge demand. Camps have never been more needed." – Paul McEntire, chief operating officer of the national YMCA organization.

Doctor says: "Keeping children masked for activities like baseball and tennis is ridiculous." – Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children's Hospital, an infectious disease specialist and editor of the leading journal for pediatric medicine

Journalist says:"At 8:30 one morning in March, online registration opened for the summer day camp run by my local community center. By 8:35 a.m., all the spots were taken and a wait list was building." – Melinda Wenner Moyer of Cold Spring, N.Y., author and New York Times contributor

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2021

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