Sleep-away camps cancelled for all NY

John Christensen

The New York State Health Dept. will not allow sleep-away camps this summer due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated June 2 that day camps could start June 29; but when it comes to overnight camps, “it is a different situation” said State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker June 12. 

“Throughout this entire public health response, there isn’t a single decision we have not made based on data and science, rather than emotion.” Zucker said in a statement. “Using the best currently available science and data, I have reached a decision to prohibit overnight children’s camps from operating this season in New York State.”

Zucker said unlike day camps, sleep-away camps would be difficult to manage social distancing, face coverings, and infection control. “Overnight camps have congregate settings and sleeping arrangements in close quarters that present too many risks,” he said. “In such a setting, even a single positive case in a camper or staff member could create an untenable quarantine situation and overwhelm camp health personnel that may not be able to handle a serious infectious outbreak of this nature.”


Pat Foster, Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Camp Cory located on Keuka Lake in Milo says the camp board came to the difficult decision to postpone overnight resident camp until 2021 even before the health department’s order. “We waited as long as possible to make this decision in hopes of arriving at a strategy that would allow us to navigate the challenges that the post-COVID world presents the overnight camping world today. It is clear – with the Governor’s decision to postpone overnight resident camp in New York State in 2020 – that our research and decision have been validated. There was no strategy strong enough to prevail this summer.”

While saddened, Camp Cory staff are still planning to run the Day Camp and Family Camp Programs this summer, and are reviewing guidelines and best practices to provide a successful and enriching experience for children and families. “We look forward to providing great experiences for families and our day campers this summer as we also plan for overnight camp in 2021,” says Foster.

Camp Cory is offering full refunds for camp fees that have been paid, or to carry them over to Summer Day Camp or Family Camp, or to next year’s camp registration, locked in with 2020 pricing.

“Next summer will be Camp Cory’s 100th anniversary, and while we understand this news is hard, we know that it will be one of our best,” says Foster


Gary Mervis, Founder of Camp Good Days & Special Times in Branchport, told the Camp Good Days Community they also had decided Camp Good Days would not be hosting residential camping programs this summer. “While we are very sad about this decision, please know that it was not made lightly, and it has been one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. It seems that, despite our efforts, we are not able to guarantee that we can provide a safe camping experience for all our campers, volunteers, and staff.” 

Mervis called the decision process “a very fluid situation.” Guidelines from the state and federal government, the CDC, and the American Camping Association were changing constantly as more information was being discovered. 

“With all of these entities involved, information is constantly changing, and this has left us with more questions than answers,” said Mervis. “Since many of our campers are immunocompromised, we do not want to put them at risk.” 

Describing it as “a very tough decision,” Mervis consoled campers and staff saying, “We hope that as time goes on, the virus will be more understood, and hopefully a vaccine will be developed in the next 12 months. We will then plan on having a full summer of residential camping programs in 2021. In the meantime, we will be going over every inch of our camp to make sure that it will be up to the standards that will be required to move forward in the new normal.

“I am heartbroken that this, our 41st summer, will be the first year since our opening that we will not have residential camp. But I am confident, in my heart, that this is the right decision. We will still be having our virtual Junior Good Days program, and we look forward to coming up with other ways for our campers and their families to be involved.”

Zucker said he too has “fond memories of summer sleep-away camp as a kid and I understand the role they play in childhood development and the disappointment this decision may bring to families across the state.” But he added that “amid the worst public health crisis in a century, my number one priority is the health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

More than 24,000 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19, by far the most in the nation. Yet the number of hospitalizations and deaths in recent days have fallen to their lowest level since the pandemic struck and the state shuttered all non-essential businesses March 22.