Summer camps prepare to open amid pandemic

Eight-year old Ruby Shapiro has been looking forward to sleep away camp for months.

“I am really excited to make new friends,” the excited camper said. “And I love camp because activities, like running, and swimming, and pool and stuff like that.”

The third grader from Pennington is one of thousands of campers in New Jersey who are anxiously waiting to see whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic will cancel camp this summer. But even if camps open this summer, they’ll be anything but typical.

Susie Lupert, the executive director for the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey, says if open, camps will have to follow CDC guidelines.

“We would create small groups of children, certainly. You would travel with that group. There wouldn’t be any trips. Every child would be screened upon entry. And then there’s medical staff on hand. Doing lunch in shifts, and also doing activities in shifts so you don’t have too many children at once. We do not expect, and I don’t think it’s realistic, that then within those groups that children will be standing 6 feet apart, or that every child would be wearing a mask. I don’t think that that’s realistic,” Lupert said.

“I don’t have any problem having Ruby tested. I think it’s important. I think that would be a smart requirement,” said Ruby’s father, David Shapiro.

If camp is cancelled, Ruby won’t be the only unhappy camper. Her parents, David and Kathlin, say the closure will leave them struggling to get creative and find child care as they work.

“I had planned this probably back, starting in the fall of 2019 to arrange the sleep away camp and also put down deposits because it can be thousands of dollars,” Kathlin said.

“We have, as Kathlin said, two full-time jobs. I work in IT so my day is chock full of meetings. We were really hoping this was going to be somewhat of a fun summer,” David said.

Rambling Pines Day Camp Director Robert Jordan says social distancing will be by far the toughest guideline to adhere to.

“Things like soccer may be more difficult to social distance, arts and crafts rooms. And obviously we’re waiting on guidance for the pools,” Jordan said.

Lupert says all camps will offer isolation tents for anyone who tests positive. And although there is still no confirmation by the state as to when camps might get the green light to open, most of them are already well prepared to a safe and healthy experience for campers this summer.