The Pandemic Throws Shade on Summer Camps

Outdoor camps have been able to reopen in New Jersey, but with new guidelines in place. 

For many kids in the United States, summer camp is a rite of passage. This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the rules for both day and overnight camps.

In my home state of New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has allowed day camps to re-open for the season on July 6. But the state’s public health officials put out strict guidelines. There will be daily health screenings at all camps, and contact sports will not be allowed. Campers must be socially distant from each other, which means at least six feet apart. When that is not possible, face coverings must be worn.

Barry Wasserman, who is the co-owner and co-manager of Eagle’s Landing Day Camp in North Brunswick, says that the guidelines are necessary to ensure safety.

“The standards are strict, as they should be,” Wasserman told me. He acknowledged that some camps were not able to follow the new guidelines. As a result, they will not open this summer.


Bobby reports from home in New Jersey. 


Eagle’s Landing has an advantage over other camps because all of its activities are outdoors. According to scientists, the coronavirus spreads more easily indoors. 

At overnight camps, attendees typically sleep over, either on a weekly or monthly basis. Those camps will not be allowed to open in New Jersey this summer.

Before the new guidelines were issued, Camp Mason, an overnight camp located in Hardwick, announced that it would remain closed throughout the summer. “The changes that would be required,” the camp said in a statement, “would render our camp experience unrecognizable.” 

Because of the pandemic, Wasserman is unsure how things will unfold this summer. But he’s confident that camp is more necessary than ever. “The mental health of the campers has been deteriorating for the past three months,” he said.

Since March, schools have been closed, and organized sports have been canceled. Young people have not been able to socialize the way they once did. This prolonged isolation has led many kids to feel lonely and disconnected.

“The benefits of summer camp,” Wasserman said, “outweigh the risks.”



Top photo courtesy of Eagle’s Landing Day Camp; bottom courtesy of the author