DeSantis: Florida summer camps can open without restrictions
May 23, 2020
FORT LAUDERDALE — Summer camps and youth activities in Florida can open without restrictions, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday.
Local organizations and governments can set rules and guidelines, the Republican governor said during a news conference in Jacksonville. The state won’t preempt those rules, he added.
“I hope that this will be good for folks over the summer. I really trust parents. I trust the physicians who work with the kids, the local leaders, coaches, camps,” he said.
He said Florida has had no fatalities of people under the age of 25.
“I think the data is pretty clear: Kids don’t seem to get infected at the same rates that adults get infected,” he said.
As of Friday morning, more than 49,000 cases have been diagnosed in Florida, with about 2,190 deaths. A Tampa Bay Times analysis of medical examiner and state health records showed that 83% of coronavirus deaths in the state are of people over the age of 65. DeSantis said many of the recent positive cases have come from long-term care facilities and prisons.
“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.”
Even so, Nichole Harrell, 31, of Tampa, has reservations about sending her 7-year-old son to summer camp this year. She said her only child is a social butterfly who loves to hug everyone and give high-fives. While she’s repeatedly explained social distancing to him, Harrell said he doesn’t “really know the significance of that.”
Harrell said restrictions like staying apart and not sharing sports equipment could make camp, which is supposed to be fun, feel more like punishment. So, she is keeping him home for the summer.
“We don’t know if it’s really safe. We don’t know if it’s really gone. We don’t know if we’ll have a second surge,” she said. “There’s just too many unknown things.”
Amy Reams Matinova of Clearwater has decided to send her 8-year-old son to golf camp. She coordinated with other moms so her son’s friend group could all attend the same four-week-long camp.
“I feel OK sending him to golf camp because it’s outside,” she said. “I really did not want him to go to an indoor enclosed camp.”
For parents concerned about sending their children to a camp or program with dozens of other people, South Florida-based Kidokenetics is offering private instruction to groups of up to 10 children.
The physical education business, which normally works with schools and local parks, has been offering virtual classes since the beginning of the coronavirus quarantine, owner Terri Braun said. But starting June 8, coaches can be booked to visit private homes, where small groups of children can receive in-person instruction while following social-distancing guidelines.
“We’re trying to see how we can accommodate everyone with all the new guidelines,” Braun said.
Braun acknowledged that some parents might be more comfortable continuing with virtual instruction, while others will allow their children to interact with larger groups.
“The most important thing for us is to get those kids physically active and to have somebody there instructing them,” Braun said.
Meanwhile, Miami Beach city commissioners agreed Friday to reopen beaches and hotels beginning June 1, a week after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The beaches will reopen about two weeks after retail stores, hair salons and barber shops were allowed to open under Florida’s phase 1 plan.
The commission delayed the reopening of restaurants in the city until Wednesday, two days after Memorial Day.
Officials didn’t want to deal with large crowds at the beach over the long holiday weekend that unofficially kicks off the summer season.
“We have to exercise some measure of caution because there is a natural tension between crowds and physical distancing,” Miami Beach Mayor Gelber said. “How do you manage that in a pandemic? The answer is carefully. We know that Memorial Day is a traditional time for everybody to go to the beach and if we saw hundreds of thousands of people on our beaches, it would be a disaster.”
Broward County officials set Tuesday as the reopening day for beaches there.
Officials in the Florida Keys also set a June 1 date to reopen for visitors.
Kelli Kennedy and David Fischer contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.