Will there be summer camps?

Joseph Spector
Kids fish off a dock at Camp Stella Maris in the Finger Lakes.

Growing number of children sickened by coronavirus-linked illness

New York officials are still debating whether the state will approve summer camps to open, but they are increasingly concerned about a growing number of children who are getting sick from a coronavirus-linked illness.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration said Sunday they are developing guidelines if summer camps were to open, but they are undecided on their plans amid a Kawasaki-type virus that appears to be linked to COVID-19 and sickening kids.

“With the new cases that we’re realizing with children, we’re relooking at those guidelines,” said Robert Mujica, the state budget director, at a briefing Sunday. “Other states around us were also moving to open summer camps; they’ve also slowed down that process.”

Summer camps are eager to get guidance from the state on whether they can open, saying they provide thousands of jobs and give parents a place to bring their children as they head back to work because the state’s businesses are starting to open. Parts of upstate New York have started the process of reopening some businesses, but camps would likely be part of the last phase of the state’s opening schedule.

Mujica said camps will know the state’s decision weeks before they would open in late June, saying they would still have time to prepare for the season.

“So we will get guidance out and make a decision way in time before that. But right now, the public health concern is first,” he said.

At least five children children have died and more than 120 have become sick in New York from an inflammatory disease that might be linked to coronavirus. The illness appears similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome, including a persistent fever.

Cuomo has increasingly raised concerns about the illness, warning it might be a new phase of the virus that has killed more than 22,600 people in New York.

“We’ve been looking at summer camps because they were already gatherings and they obviously have density,” Cuomo said “This issue with this Kawasaki-like syndrome is, I think, very important.”

Cuomo called it a “a syndrome we are just discovering” and could impact any decision to allow summer camps, whether it be sleepaway camps or day camps.

“I think the numbers are going to be much, much higher,” Cuomo said of the illness affecting children. “And we need to know that as a society. We were told children are not affected, and we’ve been operating on that basis, and that’s one conversation with summer camps when you say children are not affected.”