After more than a year of being cooped up or kept close to home, many kids will be heading to sleepaway camps this summer. With new state guidelines to keep children safe, parents we spoke with, like Jamie Witover, said they're confident that their kids will be OK.
"Everyone is like, ‘Get them to camp. They need to be in camp this year,’” Witover told NY1. Witover said she's like most moms she knows — eager to see her kids enjoy some semblance of a regular childhood this summer.
"I have a six-year-old who is going to day camp and I have an eight-year-old who's going to be going to sleepaway camp this year for the first time,” Witover explained.
She's among the parents welcoming the state's new COVID-19 guidelines for camps and childcare programs. Last year, her son and daughter had to stay close to their Upper East Side home and go to day camp because of pandemic restrictions, but the experience left Witover reassured about their safety.
"I was so nervous leading up to it, just deciding if I was even going to do it,” said Witover, who was plagued by doubts. "Is it the right choice? What am I doing? It's a pandemic and I'm sending my kids to camp? Like, it seemed crazy, but after the first week or two of them being there I just was so comfortable with it. The camp did an amazing job."
Day camps and sleepaway camps have to follow capacity, social distancing and mask requirements aimed at limiting the spread of the virus, but some rules will be relaxed for those who are fully vaccinated. And this week the state revised its earlier guidance by encouraging but not requiring children between two and five to wear masks.
"When a child enters camp, there's going to be health screenings every single day, there's medical staff at camp as long as that camp is licensed by the Department of Health, and we're going to be monitoring so many different situations,” said Susie Lupert, who heads the American Camp Association for New York and New Jersey. She's confident that strict protocols will keep kids safe.
"New York day camps all ran last summer and they did so safely,” said Lupert. "We studied a number of them [and] there were no cases."
Witover said she's confident and ready to give her kids an experience they've earned after such a trying year.
"They need a summer. They need to socialize. They need to go swimming. They need to play sports. They need to just get a little bit of normalcy back,” said Witover.