Sleepaway camps will not be allowed to operate in New York this summer, Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said Friday, citing the risks of COVID-19 and the difficulty in enforcing social distancing and mask use.
Parents and camp operators had been waiting for weeks on the decision, which follows an early June order allowing day camps to open later this month. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly said he considered sleepaway camps a very different matter, often adding that he would not let his own children go to one.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
"Overnight camps have congregate settings and sleeping arrangements in close quarters that present too many risks," Zucker said in a statement. "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."
Get Tri-state area news and weather forecasts to your inbox. Sign up for NBC New York newsletters.
As cases spike dramatically in a number of states that have reopened, Cuomo has cautioned against rushing into activities where too many people congregate in close quarters.
The particular risk with camps, he says, is MIS-C, which hundreds of children developed after being infected with COVID-19. Most of them ended up in intensive care and at least three died in New York from the condition.
"And while infection rates are declining, we need to proceed with caution and take every step possible to avoid undoing all the progress New Yorkers have made in bending the curve and reopening the state safety and responsibly," Zucker continued.
Cuomo said June 2 that summer day camps could reopen June 29 with strict precautions to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
Hours before the decision was made officials, Orthodox Jewish children took to the streets of Brooklyn Friday, asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow sleepaway camps to reopen for the summer.