December 4, 2021

County summer camps debate opening

With no directive from the state or federal governments yet, Cortland County camps are debating whether they will open this summer and what summer camp might look like during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expect field trips to be canceled, if one draft federal guidance is followed, and groups kept separate to reduce mingling.

“We permit the children’s summer camps under Public Health law,” said Health Director Catherine Feuerherm. “It’s all highly regulated to ensure the safety of the children.”

There are seven camps given permits to run, which run as little as one week, but up to 10 weeks, with anywhere from 25 to 1,000 kids participating in them, according to the Health Department.

However, the state hasn’t announced whether it will cancel summer camps.

“We’re not sure if it’s considered recreation, which is the last phase of governor’s plans” or day care, which would open up in the earlier phases, Feuerherm said.

In the meantime, the Health Department is asking camps to prepare plans in case they can and decide to run.

“That can be a lot of work if the governor decides summer camps aren’t going to work,” Feuerherm said. But she said it also gives camps the opportunity to dust off and update their safety plans.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County runs the 4-H Camp Owahta, which usually begins the first week of July and can run as long as six weeks and has anywhere from 75 to 300 kids.

“We haven’t made a final decision,” said Cooperative Extension Executive Director David Rutherford. “On May 15, we will make a final decision on whether or not they will run the camps. I think we’re also looking around at the county and what the county is doing.”

But the agency is already working on a plan for if it does open Camp Owahta. However, Rutherford did not go into detail about the plan. However, he said the governor’s office usually follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They (the CDC) have put out some guidance of how some camps can run if they’re going to run,” he said.

However, the report that included that guidance “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” has not yet been published, and a CDC official told the Associated Press it never would be following a White House decision, although White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN the document remained in editing.

The three-page plan in the document outlines a number of steps summer camps would need to take, including canceling field trips, making sure groups of children don’t mingle with other groups, restrict nonessential visitors and activities and keep materials separate to avoid children sharing them, such as art supplies.

Other social distancing measures would also apply, including a requirement that staff wear masks at all times and hands are washed routinely.