coronavirus pandemic

How Coronavirus is Affecting Summer Camps

NBC 7 Responds looked at how the pandemic is affecting popular summer camps across San Diego

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Update May 19, 2020: The YMCA tells NBC 7 it has decided to cancel its two overnight camps scheduled at the end of June. They still plan to hold their summer day camps.

Camp can be a big part of summer vacation, but many parents are wondering if they should cancel because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of San Diego's camps still are scheduled to take place. Now, there are questions not only about health and safety but also school schedules.

"The early indication from the CDC, our parents and campers are they would like to see the camps happen," said Tom Madeyski, the Executive Director of YMCA's Overnight Camps. "But only if we can do so safely."

The YMCA hosts 500 camps all across San Diego County. From camps near Julian to surf camps in Imperial Beach, the YMCA says they are paying close attention to health and safety guidelines.

"The CDC will be issuing guidelines this week or early next week," said Madeyski. "We do know that things may change, but we are ready to flex and adapt."

There are already thousands of families signed up for camps hosted by the YMCA. Some parents have reached out and canceled because of the uncertainty. Madeyski says they will not make a decision on the camps until mid-May.

"At that point, we need to decide and give parents advanced notice," said Madeyski. "If they deem we cannot run the camps, the YMCA will definitely issue credits or refunds. Or, as a non-profit, sometimes people donate those fees and deposits to us."

The San Diego-Imperial Council of the Boy Scouts of America has already had to hold virtual weekend events instead of meeting in-person. There is also a nationwide "camp-in" that will be held on May 2nd.

"We have not made any determinations to close the camps," said Deputy Scout Executive Karl Shelton in an email. "We have communicated regularly to our registrants as we evaluate this evolving situation."

Shelton says the national BSA has been holding weekly meetings to help local councils decide how and when to resume in-person events. The local council said they have already paused the March and April payments for their big summer camp pending a final decision. If the camp is canceled, families would get a refund and be invited to take part in a virtual summer camp session.

On its website, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego says they have not started the refund process because they hope to, "reopen our Clubs in time for summer camp." If the camps have to be canceled, then those refunds will be processed.

While some camps are still set to go on, others are preemptively closing their doors. Several large camps are held at Point Loma Nazarene University's campus each summer, but all of those camps were canceled.

"We made the decision, in consultation with public health authorities, to cancel contracts on all our summer camps this season," said a PLNU spokesperson in an email. "Our partners were also in agreement with this decision."

Even if existing camps go forward, some parents are worried they could now conflict with a potential earlier start to the school year.

"I certainly hope [school] district decisions allow some form of summer camps," said Madeyski. "It's proven over and over that the experience kids get at camp are really beyond fun and outdoors, they're also formative."

The YMCA says while their camps may look a little different, they are hopeful there will still be camps for children to attend.

"[It's] favorable that we can operate on some level of camps," said Madeyski. "In this day and age of high technology, summer camp really provides that outdoor and social environment that kids need."

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