Over the past two weeks I have received numerous calls about my opinion on sending children to summer camp. It is not a straight forward answer and each family must weigh the pros and cons of their particular situation.
Let’s look at the data though. We have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases in the New York City area. We had 186 cases of Covid-19 confirmed on June 24th compared to our high of 6300 cases on April 6th. Compared to other parts of the country we are doing well. The number of hospitalizations and deaths in New York City continues to decrease, in part due to the persistent hard work of New Yorkers to keep each other and themselves safe. As we enter phase III in early July, parents and older kids are anxious to resume some semblance of “normal” summer life, which for many children includes camp.
We know that Covid-19 does not frequently affect children, with the CDC reporting that only 1.7% of confirmed Covid-19 cases were in children. Multi-system inflammatory disease in children from Covid-19 remains rare with a mortality rate of .0002%.
When we look at these numbers, we realize again that children are not at significant risk for developing severe disease from Covid -19 infection. My greater concern is the emotional toll that months of forced isolation will have on our children. Parents have tried their best to be a teacher, best friend, and disciplinarian all at the same time. Many parents have described to me increasing problems with separation anxiety in their young children and increased anxiety and moodiness in their teens and exhaustion and frustration in their own lives. Children need to be outside, to run and play in the fresh air with other children and we as parents are not meant to be with our children 24/7 for months on end.
Camp may be the answer, if it is available. Before you consider camp, look at your child and your families health. If your child has severe lung disease, is immunocompromised, or you have vulnerable adults at home, perhaps camp is not the right decision for your family.
If you do choose a camp, make sure that they follow the CDC guidelines for keeping children as healthy as possible. This would include, for day camps, social distancing on the bus, screenings for counselors and campers upon arrival, and plans for how they would isolate a camper who did show signs of illness.
Sleep away camps may have more control over children’s exposure as they are not commuting, and these camps are more commonly located in rural areas. Sleep away camps that limit the influx of camper’s mid-season may be a better option.
It is a personal decision and each family must weigh the risks and benefits but overall the advantages to your child’s mental health may outweigh the risk of continued isolation in my opinion.