ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local parents say they are relieved New York health officials revised masking guidance for child care programs and summer camps.
Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he was following federal guidance and children ages 2-5 attending daycare would have to wear face coverings. After lots of pushback from parents and lawmakers, that guidance was reversed Monday night.
On Monday, Laura Barbato sent her two youngest children to daycare with masks on for the first time in 15 months.
“One of my sons was crying about it. He has sensory processing disorder and he hates the way it’s on his ears and it’s very difficult for him to communicate so he needs to see faces and he needs his face to be seen,” Barbato said.
Barbato said until the new guidelines were released, she wasn’t going to send her kids to daycare.
“We just thought that was crazy, especially because last summer when there was no vaccine and no treatments that we have now for COVID were not in place, so we were just shocked that they were now implementing new guidelines this summer,” Barbato said.
She said kids spend a lot of time outside when at child care, where transmission is low. It also isn’t easy making toddlers wear face coverings.
“It tugs on their ears, they play with their masks. I see children touching their masks. I see kids taking them on, taking them off. Switching masks, putting it on a table. They aren’t always wearing them properly,” Barbato said. “These kids are there for 9, 10 hours a day when they are developing language, developing literacy skills… I just think that we all need to weigh the risk-benefit factor with those kids.”
Local camp leaders have already started preparing for a busy summer. While they’re still waiting for more direction from the state, these new guidelines are a helpful start.
“We’re super grateful to have gotten these guidelines now with a little bit of time to prepare,” said Jack Schott, the Executive Director of Camp Stomping Ground. “We’re hoping this summer we can get kids outside, spending as much time playing and not having to wear a mask as much as possible, and to keep a safe environment.”
So whats the plan for kids ages 6-12 who still aren’t able to get vaccinated? Schott says the safety guidelines aren’t super clear yet.
“We aren’t entirely sure yet as an industry. These guidelines aren’t perfectly clear on how they are to spend their time,” Schott said. “What I will say is if you’re going to a camp that spends most of their time outside, there will be lots of times where kids have to wear their masks and lots of times where they might not have to, depending on some of the testing requirements and decisions camps are able to make.”
Schott also said guidelines may differ depending on the length of the camp.
For example, he said for camps that run seven or eight weeks, leaders are able to create more “bubbles” for children and those kids will be together more, so they may not have to wear masks as often. For camps that only last a week, Schott says kids may have to wear masks.
Schott’s camp is two weeks and he already has a plan in place. “For the first three days, everyone is going to be wearing masks pretty much all the time, except when they are sleeping, eating, swimming,” he explained. Afterwords, camp leaders will be making stable groups (groups of 36 kids or less), where they won’t have as strict of guidance.
The state guidelines still ask child care facilities and programs to collect COVID-19 vaccination status for all staff and children, and have mandatory daily health screening practices of staff and visitors.
Unvaccinated staff members still have to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Masks also have to be worn by all during transportation.