Summer Camps Await CDC's COVID-19 Guidelines, Expected Before End of May

Some Massachusetts camps have already decided to close this summer, while others are waiting for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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For 101 years, children in southeastern Massachusetts have enjoyed the great outdoors at Cathedral Camp in Freetown. This diocesan run, non-profit closed once during World War II, and now a second time.

"A lot of these kids are underprivileged," said Rena Lemieux, an assistant director at Cathedral Camp. "They don't have swing sets in their back yards. They don't have pools in their backyards, and the camp was really their respite for the summer.

"It's with a heavy heart that we closed camp," she continued, "but it had to be done because we have bus transportation and we just don’t know how that’s going to play out – you can't social distance on a bus. If we tried to open, it might not work out because people are afraid."

While other camps have, like Cathedral, already closed across New England, many others are undecided.

"The prime concern for camp operators and owners and directors is the health and safety of campers and staff, so they need to feel sure that they can run in a safe way," said Bette Bussel, executive director of the American Camp Association of New England.

The ACA accredits hundreds of camps in the region. It is currently waiting on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an outside firm later this month to share with camp owners, so they can decide whether to open and if so, how to operate safely.

"Every camp is going to make their own decision. All we will be doing is providing information that we have gathered from experts about what you might need to do and what your state government says, but every camp is going to have to make that decision for themselves," Bussel said.

Families across Massachusetts are waiting to see if their children will be able to attend summer camp amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If camps do decide to open, Bussel said to expect them to operate differently, like having fewer campers, changing cleaning requirements and imposing social distancing.

Diane Festa and her son Anthony are waiting to hear if Scout camp will be canceled this year. Despite the pandemic, Festa wants to get her son off the computer and out in the fresh air.

"If they say he can go, I'm sending him," Festa said. "I just don't live my life in fear. I am not fearful. I believe that being out in nature will be good for him. He needs to get out of this house."

It's expected most camps will make their decisions before the end of the month. If you choose not to send your child to camp, contact the camp director to inquire about a refund. If what they recommend doesn't work for you, continue to communicate with them.

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