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DOH says no to sleepaway camps, but will some still open?

Joseph Abraham - Co-editor
Posted 6/18/20

NEW YORK STATE -- If you thought last week's decision by the New York State Department of Health, which prohibits sleepaway camps from operating this summer, put the debate on whether or not they'd …

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DOH says no to sleepaway camps, but will some still open?

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NEW YORK STATE -- If you thought last week's decision by the New York State Department of Health, which prohibits sleepaway camps from operating this summer, put the debate on whether or not they'd actually open to bed, think again.

At Monday's live county virtual town hall, when asked about the enforcement of this mandate, as well as enforcement of compliance relating to reopening, Fallsburg Police Chief Simmie Williams said, “What many residents in the Town of Fallsburg might see is that many of these camps are open. They've applied to the Department of Health to have their residency changed temporarily to these summer camps, so a lot of the summer camps will be open because there's going to be people temporarily living there.”

Williams added that the Town of Fallsburg has made signs in various languages that their officers have carried around town. “We've asked people to wear masks, to practice social distancing and I call it ‘Stop and Remind,' because that is what we're going to have to do all summer.”

In a statement explaining the DOH's decision last week, NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said unlike day camps, overnight camps are a difficult setting to manage social distancing and face covering and infection control practices.

“Overnight camps have congregate settings and sleeping arrangements in close quarters that present too many risks,” Dr. Zucker 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.”

On Monday, Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw told the Democrat that the decision to keep overnight children's camps closed Statewide is wise and warranted given how little is known about the impacts of COVID-19 on children.

“It's also sad and must have been a very difficult decision, considering so many children and camp employees will miss out on a summer's worth of incredible, memorable experiences,” McGraw said. “However, it's far more important that we keep them safe and stop the spread of coronavirus throughout New York. I thank Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Zucker for their careful thought on this controversial issue, which was very difficult.”

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