Coronavirus: SoCal summer camps, hoping to reopen, enact changes amid pandemic

BRENTWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- They're among the most cherished friendships and memories of childhood, and they're made at summer camp.

But this year, thousands of children may miss out as many summer camps are having to close.

"We already had ordered our infrared-temperature check thermometers," said Liz Kimmelman, director of Tumbleweed Day Camp in the Santa Monica Mountains. "We already had our gloves and masks and items that we would have to have in our health-care center."

Kimmelman notified families that -- for now -- their 2020 summer camp is suspended. It's a first for the popular Brentwood day camp that has served some 1,200 children every summer since 1954.

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"While we feel prepared and able to meet the challenge of creating the safest place possible this summer, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health made it clear that businesses that are not included in the current health order are prohibited from operating," Kimmelman said.

Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association, said: "Every state and then every county in that state is really charged with determining when camps should be able to operate, according to COVID."

On Monday, the American Camp Association released in-depth guidelines giving camps nationwide a detailed road map to operating a COVID-19-safe camp experience.

"In general, you're going to see a very strong emphasis on screening and monitoring and surveilling, because it's important to make sure everyone coming to camp is healthy," Rosenberg said.

This would not be the year to send your child to an open camp in another state -- especially if you live in a virus hot-spot like Los Angeles.

But some local camps are hopeful that they'll receive approval to reopen after officials review their guidelines. Among them are Valley Trails Summer Camp, which operates locations in Santa Clarita and Tarzana.

"This is a very intensive guide -- over 87 pages of material, where it's really detailing how we can operate safely," said Mike Stillson, Valley Trails' executive director. "There is a checklist for everything, from the way that we are going to screen our campers and our staff as they arrive to camp throughout the day.

"The way that meals are going to be divided. There's going to be no more than 11 campers per group, and those campers will be together throughout the entire week. We're going to be washing our hands more than kids have ever washed their hands, this summer."
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