As summer approaches, New York and New Jersey’s camps and childcare programs will have to grapple with evolving state and federal requirements for older kids eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine versus children under the age of 12 who aren’t yet eligible to get vaccinated.
“We as camp operators, we sort of operate on outdated guidance that does not reflect the latest,” said Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay Y, which runs the JCC Brooklyn day camp at Fort Hamilton.
Still, Petlakh added, “it’s much better than last year,” when day camps were severely curtailed in their operations and capacity, and overnight camps not permitted to operate at all.
Here’s a look at current health requirements for campers in New York and New Jersey:
- The youngest kids up to age 5 won’t be required to wear masks at all indoors or outdoors summer camps and childcare programs, though the state Department of Health still “encourages” masks since no child in this age group can get vaccinated yet.
- Unvaccinated kids in New York will also no longer be required to wear masks outside at summer camps or childcare programs if they are in an outdoor space being used exclusively by the program.
- Older unvaccinated kids are “encouraged but not required to wear face coverings as feasible” inside, the state DOH said. 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.
The state DOH announced June 4th it intended to match school mask policies with those of camps and said it would move to no longer mandate masks for public school students, teachers and staff unless the Centers For Disease Control provided more evidence to support the policy. New York City officials and the state Department of Education they would continue to require masking at public schools.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday the CDC’s nationwide recommendations for schools wouldn’t be changed for several weeks, but that the state wants to modify the federal guidance by giving individual school districts the choice of whether or not to have children wear masks outdoors. He said this switch would align rules for summer camps and schools in the state.
- Campers in New Jersey will also not be required to wear masks outdoors regardless of vaccination status.
- But the state still encourages masking outdoors for unvaccinated campers and staffers when “in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.”
- Unvaccinated camp staffers will be required to wear masks indoors, with “limited exceptions” including when eating, drinking, sleeping or swimming.
- Pods of campers in New Jersey will not need to be masked within their assigned groups, though masks will be required on transportation.
- New Jersey overnight camps will be required to ask their campers and staffers for a documented negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arriving on-site unless those people can show proof of full vaccination. Campers and staffers at overnight camps who are not fully vaccinated will also be required to take another test “within 3 to 6 days of arrival.”
- Operators of overnight camps are strongly encouraged to ask participants and staffers to voluntarily quarantine before coming to camp.
New Jersey has not updated its school masks guidance, with the state still requiring students and staff to wear “face coverings at all times while inside a school building, regardless of social distancing, unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or for other outlined exceptions.” Masks are still required inside childcare settings as well.