Cuomo: NY Summer Camps Must Require Masks For Unvaccinated Kids And Staff

While New York lifted many COVID-19 regulations on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that unvaccinated adults and kids between the ages of 2-11 years old will need to continue to wear masks in childcare and camp settings. New Jersey adopted similar rules last week.

The new policy applies to staffers and attendees at childcare programs, day camps and overnight camps. Under the rules, the unvaccinated should only remove their face coverings while eating, drinking, showering, swimming or sleeping. The guidance adds that “children/campers may also remove face coverings outdoors when they are unable to tolerate a face covering for the physical activity.”

Pods of children at overnight camps who all test negative for COVID-19 by the 3rd-5th day of camp can unmask together inside their group. If an entire camp reaches the 10-day benchmark without a positive COVID test and no symptoms, then the whole camp can abandon their masks, said Jess Michaels, director of communications with the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey.

Camp and childcare programs in New York will also be required to “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,” the state Department of Health said. Staff who are unvaccinated will need to continue to distance at least six feet away from each other.

Currently anyone 12 years old and up can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots are only available to adults over 18.

“We are continuing to make incredible progress against COVID and lifting restrictions based on the science and numbers, but we are not yet at the finished line,” Cuomo said. “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.”

Read More: After A Year Of Coronavirus Pause, NY And NJ Lift Most Restrictions

Each program will also need to determine capacity limitations for social distancing purposes, the state said. Last summer, New York state’s overnight camps were shuttered but will be allowed this year to operate under the updated guidelines.

“After a year of remote learning and missed activities, kids need camp this summer more than ever before for their social and emotional well-being,” said Susie Lupert, Executive Director of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, in a statement. “Last summer, camps operated with no COVID outbreaks using multi-layered mitigation protocols, and summer camps are ready to welcome children back to camp for a safe, healthy and fun summer.”

New Jersey’s health department issued guidance on May 11th for its day and overnight camps. Camps must conduct daily health screenings for staffers and campers, and masks should be required in indoor settings and encouraged outside when social distancing isn’t possible. Kids and unvaccinated staffers must show a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arriving at an overnight camp. Everyone is required to undergo testing again within 3-6 days. New Jersey is also asking camp participants and staffers to voluntarily quarantine before coming to camp.

Massachusetts officials have announced that unvaccinated kids will no longer have to wear masks when outside at school and childcare programs. Starting May 29th, this policy will apply to camps there, too.