(JTA) – Parents in the ari-state area can breathe a little easier now that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that day camps and overnight camps in the state would likely be able to operate this year. Cuomo barred sleepaway camps in the state from opening last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some camps temporarily moved their operations to other states that allowed overnight camps to open, but many others simply shut down, at financial loss to their operators and to the disappointment of families.
Last year’s ban prompted a lawsuit by the Association of Jewish Camp Operators, which represents Orthodox Jewish camps. The group argued that Cuomo’s ban constituted religious discrimination because other businesses were allowed to remain open. The camps had presented a safety plan to the governor’s office and state health department but the governor was ultimately not convinced that overnight camps could be operated safely. Now, camps will be allowed to open starting in June provided that COVID-19 cases continue to fall, Cuomo announced Wednesday, Feb. 17, adding that the state will issue guidance to camps for COVID testing protocol.
Last year, most Jewish sleepaway camps shut down for the summer. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation announced in April that it would spend $10 million to support camps as they weathered the pandemic.
Cuomo suggested that parents, not the state, would be the main drivers of what happens with camps this year. “No parent is going to send their child to a summer camp, unless there’s a testing protocol, anyway,” he said.
Main Photo: The ropes course at Camp Modin in Maine, one of the few Jewish overnight camps to open last year. Overnight camps in New York State will be allowed to open this year. (Courtesy of Camp Modin)