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Summer camps weighing closures

Andrew Hyman
Updated: May 22, 2020 12:21 PM
Created: May 21, 2020 11:43 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Right now, the campus at Camp Stella Maris is empty, and for the first time in 95 years, it'll stay that way this summer.

It's disappointing news for parents like Bill Bliek, whose daughter, Charlotte, spent a two-week stay at the camp along Conesus Lake for the first time last summer. He says the family planned to send its youngest daughter to go with Charlotte this coming summer.

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"[Charlotte] just, she really enjoyed the camp, she still talks about the counselors," Bliek said.

The camp's Executive Director John Quinlivan says organizers spoke with its medical team and looked at recommendations and guidelines for camps. In the end, they felt it was not best to keep the camp open, it’s a decision Quinlivan called "heartbreaking," but one he says they had to make. 

"If I can't look a parent in the eye and say your child is going to be safe here, I shouldn't have your child," Quinlivan said.

The guidelines came from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Camp Association, both of which were handed down last week. The guidelines suggest moves from constant cleaning and sanitation, to strict physical distancing during activities, both inside and outside.

As of the deadline for this article, New York State has not decided to make a decision on closing camps, though organizers at Keuka Lake's Camp Good Days maintain hope to keep camp going this summer.

As News10NBC previously reported, the camp is delaying all programs until at least Aug. 1. Camp founder Gary Mervis says the camp cut down on its capacity and will have the tools ready to keep the place clean, but they have not made a definite decision on whether it will cancel.

According to Mervis, he would not want to put campers, and adults in harm’s way, but still wants to provide a safe outlet for campers, many of whom are recovering from cancer.

"Obviously, we're in a state of flux because there's still so many questions," Mervis said.

Questions, which include if parents would be comfortable sending their kids to camp in the first place. As of late, concerns were raised over a rare pediatric illness called multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) which the CDC confirmed is connected to COVID-19.

In his news conference Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed the topic.

"As a parent, until I know how widespread this is, I would not send my children to day camp," he said.

We also asked many of you to weigh-in on a News10NBC Facebook poll, some of you said you were not comfortable because of "safety concerns" or, because the "precautions could cut down on the camping experience." Other parents felt camps should continue because kids "need the human interaction for their mental health."

As for Bliek, he says the summer will include lots of days with his daughters out in the yard.

"We'll make it through it, we'll be fine,” he said. “But it's just not going to be the same, and that's okay too."

Rochester’s Jewish Community Center has confirmed it canceled its overnight and day camp programs for the summer.

Quinlivan says parents have been understanding with his camp’s move, and the camp is offering either full refunds or re-enrollment for the summer of 2021. 


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