Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) announced on Friday that all restrictions on summer and youth camps in Floriday will be lifted, effective immediately.
“Our kids have been out of organized activities for a couple months now,” DeSantis said on Friday in Jacksonville. “We need to have a pathway to get it back.” The governor did say that the Florida Department of Health would likely post a list of best practices to its website and that local leadership will be allowed to make independent decisions.
“We believe that this makes sense based on the data and observed experience. We are not going to be instituting a lot of rules, or really any rules,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, we trust parents to be able to make decisions in conjunction with physicians.”
Broward and Miami-Dade officials remain cautious. Broward County Spokesperson Margaret Stapleton reiterated that the county is “not offering any youth sports or summer camps at this time,” but “Parks and Recreation staff is assessing how programming can resume, with adherence to the requirements for social distancing, facial covering and sanitation.” Miami-Dade had a similar response: “We do not have a timetable as yet for any openings,” said Miami-Dade spokesperson Myriam Marquez.
State pediatric authorities are also in disagreement about reopening summer camps — famous for their crowded throngs of children and lack of showering — so soon. “We still don’t know enough about the disease,” said Dr. Bruce Peters, a professor at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University. “We don’t even have a vaccine. It’s way too early.”
But Dr. Bonnie White, a pediatrician who attended DeSantis’s announcement, asserted that it was more important for children to “be able to laugh with their friends,” and parents should simply practice due diligence, keeping their kids from the activities if they are sick.
Camps across Florida are looking carefully at how to manage reopening activities for children amid the global pandemic. Many are cutting enrollment in half, restricting larger group activities, and removing field trips from the schedule. “We are still assessing the issue and have not made a final determination yet,” said Kevin Pickard, director of the City of Sunrise Leisure Services.
“In addition to the risks associated with COVID-19, the lack of school sites is a major concern for us. We would have to substantially lower our registration numbers if the determination is made to continue on with a camp program,” he added.
Many parents remain skeptical. “I will absolutely not send my child to a camp this year,” Mayte Arteta-Martinez of Hollywood told Fox. “I do not feel it is safe because children do not understand the concepts of social distance, nor do I believe camp counselors/teachers are willing to take the time to constantly be watching over them to keep these parameters.”