Looking for a summer camp to occupy the kids? You’re not flat out of luck. Some day and overnight camp programs are still up and running despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Sleepaway camps are still operating in Arkansas, Georgia, Maine, North Carolina, and Texas, though with health screenings and smaller groups. And they’re still open county by county in Florida and Wisconsin.
Connecticut and Indiana, meanwhile, have banned overnight camps entirely for now.
But most other states, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have yet to make a final decision on whether sleepaway camp is no or go.
The outlook is rosier for day camps but many are running smaller programs, hosting family visits or pivoting to camp-themed activities online — like crafts and virtual nature walks.
Still, the majority — three out of four local states — have yet to set guidelines for day programs, according to the American Camp Association.
In the tri-state area, only Connecticut has firm guidelines — including that any group of children in any day camp activity be limited to ten.
New York and New Jersey are still deciding if, and how, day camps will operate.
In New York, the YMCA of Greater New York is accepting day camp registrations but officials are still waiting for state and city guidance before actually opening. The local Y’s popular sleepaway camp program has been canceled for the summer.
“We intend to offer virtual camp options for our YMCA families,” spokesman Erik Opsal said.
New York City’s The Fresh Air Fund is also meeting the coronavirus challenge by moving programs online and by working with other community groups to create safe outdoor gatherings, said Fatima Shama, the fund’s executive director.
A limited number of families chosen by lottery will also be able to enjoy the Fund’s six, bucolic upstate campsites, Shama said, “So that parents and kids can have a moment to exhale — together.”
But Gov. Cuomo is not bullish on the prospect of summer camps — not until more is known about the new COVID-19-related syndrome that has killed more than 75 children in New York state.
“I would not send my children to day camp,” he said last week.
“If I won’t send my children to day camp, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to send their children to day camp. It’s that simple.”
How to find a summer camp
The YMCA is continuing to operate most of its day camps nationwide, depending on what local governments allow.
The Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts are also offering some summer programs, depending on location.
But a terrific place for families to start is the American Camp Association — the only national accrediting body for summer and day camps in the US.
The ACA’s website allows campers to search through more than 12,000 accredited camp programs nationwide and internationally.
Searches can be filtered by state and what type of camp — day or overnight. Results can be further refined by specific activities or religions or other affiliations.
The ACA makes daily updates to a comprehensive list of states showing which have established rules for day and overnight camps, and if so, the documentation behind those rules.
But it is still best to call the camps directly to see how the virus has changed operations there. Many will not be able to give firm answers just yet but may have a sense of where things are heading in the coming weeks.
“A couple of months ago parents were worried they’d have to forego summer camp this year,” said consultant Lauren Nearpass, whose company, Summer 365, helps caregivers find the best camps for their family’s needs.
“But now parents know that this summer is just going to look different than it has in the past,” she said.
“They’ve wrapped their heads around that now, and they want to do what’s in the best interest of their children — not only from a health and safety angle but for mental health as well.
Additional reporting by Doree Lewak