New York issues rules for summer camps: 5 things to know

Jon Campbell
New York State Team

ALBANY – Summer camps and day camps have the all clear to open for business in New York this summer, but plenty of COVID-19 rules and policies will remain in effect.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration on Wednesday released 23 pages of rules and guidelines for summer camp operators, laying out the mandates they must follow in hopes of limiting the potential spread of the coronavirus.

For unvaccinated campers and staffers, that means masks must be worn in most situations and social distancing must be adhered to. But it's a different story for the vaccinated, which is in line with new state policies that went into effect Wednesday.

"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 in a statement.

Sending your child to camp this year? Here are five things to know about New York's latest rules and guidelines.

Camps must collect vaccination status

New York is requiring summer camps to collect information about the vaccination status of its campers and staff in 2021.

Any day camp or summer camp will be required to collect information about each staff member and camper's vaccination status, according to the rules.

That information would be provided for review by the Department of Health or Office of Children and Family Services upon request.

Each staff member, visitor and camper will also be required to submit to a daily health screening, including temperature checks and whether they are experiencing any COVID-like symptoms.

Campers will have to participate in the health screenings either directly or through their parent or guardian, the rules state.

Unvaccinated campers, staff will have to wear masks

Any campers over the age of two who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks in most situations, along with staff members who are not fully vaccinated.

The only exceptions to the mask rule are when the campers or unvaccinated staff are:

  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Showering
  • Swimming
  • Sleeping/resting

Campers can also remove their masks if they are "unable to tolerate a face covering" during physical activity outdoors, according to the state guidance.

"Since face coverings have been proven to be effective when distancing is not feasible, facilities and programs must provide and require the use of face coverings for individuals who are not fully vaccinated," Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office wrote in a press release Wednesday.

The unvaccinated will also be required to maintain six feet of social distance whenever possible, too.

Mask and social distancing rules do not apply to the vaccinated

If you're a camper or staffer age 12 or older and it has been two weeks since your final vaccination shot, the mask mandate and social-distancing rules won't apply to you in most circumstances.

According to the state's guidance:

"Social distancing and face covering requirements do not apply to those who are fully vaccinated except as otherwise specified in this document."

There are some caveats for staff in particular, though. If there's a situation when campers will be required to wear masks, even fully vaccinated staffers will be required to model wearing a face covering to set an example.

Unvaccinated staff will be required to wear masks and maintain six feet of social distance from other unvaccinated staff, unless they are caring for a child or some other safety issue is at play, according to the rules.

Masks are 'strongly recommended' in certain indoor settings

Whenever there's a situation where people are gathered indoors and their vaccination status is unknown, the state DOH "strongly recommends" requiring masks, according to the rules.

When non-vaccinated people are participating, the rules also don't allow for indoor activities or sports that don't allow for social distancing or face coverings.

"Ensure that indoor activities/sports are not permitted if they involve less than six feet distance between individuals who are not fully vaccinated and face coverings cannot be worn/tolerated based on the nature of the activity," according to the rules.

Negative test, lab results or vaccination required for overnight camps

Campers and staffers attending overnight camps will be required to provide one of three things: A negative COVID test, proof of vaccination or proof that they had COVID within the last three months.

For those who are vaccinated, they will have to provide proof they received their final shot at least 14 days before arriving to camp.

Otherwise, a camper or staff member would have to provide proof of a negative test within 72 hours of arrival, or lab results showing they had been infected with COVID in the previous three months, according to the rules.

More:Summer camps can open in New York. Here's when

Jon Campbell is the New York State Team editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.

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