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Summer camp outlook for 2021 season: Sun, fun and, sometimes, masks 

The CDC says that facilities with fully vaccinated

The CDC says that facilities with fully vaccinated staff and campers can lose masks and safe distancing requirements. What should parents know? How will camp programs change this summer as infections wane? Panelists include Mark Transport, Owner/Director at Crestwood Day Camp and Former President of the Long Island Camps and Private Schools Association; Dan Weir, President NY State Camp Directors Association; Board Member ACA NY/NJ Office and Senior Director of Program Development YMCA of Long Island; and Dr. Chid Iloabachie, Associate Chairperson, Department of Emergency Medicine at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream. Sign up for COVID-19 text alerts at newsday.com/text.

Although Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has lifted most COVID-19 restrictions for New York State, summer day camps on Long Island likely will continue their previously planned protocols for this season, camp directors told a Newsday Live webinar on Wednesday.

Children likely will still ride on buses at half-capacity while wearing masks, have health and temperature checks each morning, and spend most of the day with their designated cohort group, said Mark Transport, immediate past president of the Long Island Camps and Private Schools Association, and owner-director of Crestwood Country Day Camp in Melville.

Unvaccinated campers will be encouraged to wear masks when indoors in large groups for an extended time period, such as when it rains, he said.

But aside from that, camp should be back to business as usual, expecting to operate at 80% to 90% percent enrollment or more, compared to last summer when camps that opened operated with 30% to 50% of the typical camper population, Transport said during the webinar on "Camp, COVID and Vaccines." Up to 95% of camp activities are outdoors, he said.

"We are going to be close to normal — not exactly, but much closer looking to 2019 than 2020," Transport said.

"A lot of camps on Long Island are filling or full," agreed Dan Weir, senior director of program development for the YMCA of Long Island. He said parents who want to enroll their children year should "definitely hurry up."

Parents who have questions regarding staff vaccination and/or testing and other COVID safety issues should seek camps licensed by New York’s Department of Health; Nassau and Suffolk health departments partnered closely with licensed camps on safety standards, Transport and Weir both said. "Not every camp handles things the same way," Weir said.

Parents sending children to a sleepaway camp out of state should seek camps accredited by the American Camp Association, which has provided advice to camps, Transport said.

Dr. Chid Iloabachie, associate chairperson of the department of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, said parents should also ask out-of-state camps for their safety protocols and training regimen.

As for a need to wear masks indoors, Iloabachie’s professional opinion is this: "If I were to boil it down very, very simply, I would say, if you’re indoors and not vaccinated, I would certainly keep the mask on."

With pandemic-caused isolation waning, camp staff will be on the lookout for children who might be having trouble readjusting to a return to socializing, Transport said.

"We understand that there was a lot of psychological stress and social stress on children throughout the year," Transport said. "Certainly their normal social circles and social activities were interrupted. This summer, because of what kids have been through for the year, will be the most important summer that we’ve ever faced."

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