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Cuomo announces new COVID-19 guidelines for camps, child care

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference in Buffalo on May 12. Credit: AP/Derek Gee

This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, Matthew Chayes, Bart Jones and Beth Whitehouse. It was written by Jones.

Child care facilities, day camps and overnight camps must implement capacity limits and enforce mask-wearing mandates for unvaccinated children and staff under new guidelines announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Staff who are not fully vaccinated must maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other unvaccinated staff, he said. The sites must also determine and enforce a capacity limit that ensures "appropriate" social distancing.

Children and campers over the age of 2 and staff who are not fully vaccinated must wear face coverings except when eating, drinking, showering, swimming or sleeping/resting.

What to know

The governor announced new COVID-19 guidelines for camps and child care facilities, including capacity limits and mask-wearing mandates for unvaccinated children and staff.

The facilities and programs must collect COVID-19 vaccination status and documentation for all staff and children, and implement mandatory daily screening practices of staff and visitors.

The announcement was made as the state implemented a major reopening of its economy and other activities, and as COVID-19 indicators continued to fall.

Some camps on Long Island did not open last summer, while those that did operated at much lower capacity and under many restrictions.

The new regulations go into effect immediately.

"To help ensure maximum protections for staff and children at child care and camp programs, we are issuing this guidance so the facilities can implement basic but critical measures that will allow them to operate safely," Cuomo said.

The facilities and programs must collect COVID-19 vaccination status and documentation for all staff and children, and implement mandatory daily health screening practices of their staff and visitors including daily temperature checks, Cuomo said.

They also need to notify the state and local health departments immediately if they have a positive COVID-19 test result by a staff member or child.

The facilities and programs must provide masks and require their use for anyone there who is not fully vaccinated, Cuomo said.

Local camp officials react

Long Island camp officials said they are still digesting the 23-page document from the state, but that among the major points were that for day camps, cohort groups can rise from last summer’s limit of 15 to a maximum of 36.

The regulations also indicate that bus transportation can return with social distancing, but that rules have tightened regarding campers wearing masks when they are outdoors.

"New York State did a pretty good job balancing COVID safety while still allowing kids to be kids and enjoy the benefits of camp," said Will Pierce, owner/director of Pierce Country Day Camp in Roslyn and president of the 30-member Long Island Camps and Private Schools Association.

All the regulations from last summer, such as daily health screening and hand hygiene throughout the day, are still in place, Pierce said.

However, Pierce and Mark Transport, co-owner of Crestwood Country Day Camp in Melville, said they were surprised by the requirement that campers must wear masks outdoors at all this summer.

"We had serious protocol last year, but kids did not wear masks outside," Transport said. "I think any thought that kids are going to have to wear masks outside is going backwards, and I don’t think anybody sees any logic in it."

The requirements specify, though, that campers can remove the masks when they are unable to tolerate a face covering for physical activity or when they’re swimming.

"I think the message for parents is, when kids are outdoors playing, they won’t be wearing masks," Pierce said. Transport said he thinks the outdoor mask requirement may still be revisited.

As for sleep-away camps, Mark Newfield, owner of Iroquois Springs sleep-away camp in the Catskills, where a quarter of the campers are from Long Island, said the guidance to how many campers can sleep in a cabin and what diagnostic testing will be required isn’t unexpected.

"I think it accurately portrays where things are right now," he said.

A 'milestone' as numbers improve

The governor made the announcement the same day the state implemented a major reopening of its economy and other activities after more than a year of shutdown or heavy restrictions.

Capacity limits were lifted at businesses ranging from hair salons to fitness centers, while vaccinated people do not have to wear masks in most situations.

"Today is a milestone in New York State's war against COVID," Cuomo said.

COVID-19 indicators continued to drop in the latest test results from Tuesday.

The statewide daily positive level in tests for COVID-19 was 1%, while the seven-day average was 1.06% — the lowest since Sept. 27.

The seven-day average was 0.91% on Long Island and 0.86% in New York City.

Hospitalizations statewide declined by 64 patients from Monday, to 1,521 — the lowest since Nov. 8.

The number of new confirmed cases was 74 in Nassau County, 79 in Suffolk County, and 472 in New York City.

Statewide, 21 people died Tuesday of causes related to the virus, including two in Suffolk.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said key indicators in the city for hospitalizations, new cases and positivity levels are below thresholds for worry.

Meanwhile, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Wednesday that local veterans, seniors and residents who cannot drive can get free rides to county vaccination sites starting June 1.

County officials are partnering with the ride-share service Lyft in a $25,000 pilot program to provide free rides to certain residents and reduce vaccine access barriers.

Bellone’s announcement comes a week after President Joe Biden announced an agreement with ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft to provide free rides to coronavirus vaccination sites through July Fourth.

Unlike in the federal program, eligible Suffolk residents won’t need to download a ride-sharing app — which typically require users to have a smartphone and a bank account — to access free rides.

Suffolk residents can call 311 for the rides.

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