The fact is, day camps present logistical and public health challenges that sleepaway camps may be able to work around. “I think day camp and sleepaway camp are very different situations,” explains Dr. Kopple, who is also a mother of two school-age kids. “Day camp still seems like a reach because the kids are at camp, they’re all around each other, and then they’re coming back and having dinner with Grandma or spending the weekend with their family. Even though at sleepaway camp, they’re sharing all their meals and sharing their environment, they are isolated [from the community at large]. They are more like a ‘quarantined’ population if they're not going on trips. Most of these counselors are young; they’re high school and college kids. So, it’s a lower-risk population in a little bubble. Day campers are fully part of their community, whereas sleepaway camp is a totally isolated pocket, if you keep the kids contained to that campus.” Some sleepaway camp directors are even confident they can get enough Coronavirus test kits to ensure every staffer and camper is virus-free before they walk through the gates.
Despite their increased challenges, many optimistic day camp directors are still moving forward with plans to open, and the state of Connecticut recently announced that camps would be allowed to operate, provided they adhere to specific safety guidelines. Safeguards being considered include: requiring campers to wear cloth masks, delayed opening dates, serving all meals outdoors, reducing the sizes of groups and prohibiting inter-group mingling via all-camp assemblies, training staff to oversee hand-washing, increasing the numbers of healthcare staff on site, stepping up the sanitizing of common areas, asking Covid-symptom-specific questions on health screening registration forms and doing daily temperature checks. Other day camps are moving camp off site, soliciting parents’ backyards, where—for a reduced fee—they will convene campers in small groups and send the counselors to them. Many, like Camp Carr, a YMCA day camp in Annandale, New Jersey, and Next Level Day Camps, which operates boys and girls camps in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, are offering lower required deposit rates with guaranteed full refunds if camps are unable to operate this summer.
As reassuring as all that sounds, mounting evidence would seem to caution parents and campers against getting their hopes up. The Union for Reform Judaism, which oversees 15 camps, including well-known, historic sleepaway camps Crane Lake and Camp Eisner, both in Massachusetts, made the call to cancel camp on April 30. 10,000 children now must make new summer plans. In North Carolina, as the majority of museum day camps and local Parks and Rec departments cancel summer programming, parents face yet another impossible scramble: “It's fair to say that this summer will present unprecedented child care issues for families across the region,” writes Raleigh-Durham journalist Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, “especially if employers require employees to return to work even if they have nobody to care for their kids.”