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Beaches to open, but summer day camps still in question

File photo

Memorial Day weekend begins with it beaches opening up and other tentative steps to restart the economy. In his daily coronavirus briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the reopenings can be done safely if people follow the rules.

State beaches reopen Friday, at 50% capacity, with strict social distancing rules. Cuomo tried to tamp down expectations on how many people will actually get a swim in over the holiday weekend.

“Those beaches may reach capacity at 10 [or] 11 o’clock in the morning,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something to take into consideration.”

Cuomo, who grew up in Queens, said he knows many people will have a bit of a drive to reach the beaches.

“You don’t want to take that ride and get all the way out there and find out the beach is already closed,” he said.

The possibility of another hot weather tradition, summer camps, seems less likely. Cuomo said no decision has yet been made about opening day camps, but he said there are growing concerns and many unanswered questions about the pediatric inflammatory disease associated with COVID-19.  

Cuomo aide Robert Mujica said guidelines are also being revised for day care centers because of the growing worries about the illness.

“Before we go ahead and say we want to open more places where children can congregate, we want to make sure that you can do it, and mitigate it, within the guidelines,” Mujica said. “And we haven’t made that determination yet.”

Cuomo said the state health department is investigating 157 cases of the syndrome, which has led to the deaths of four children.

“As a parent, until I know how widespread this illness is, I would not send my children to day camp,” Cuomo said. “And if I won’t send my children to day camp, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to send their children to day camp.”

The governor said in-person summer school is canceled for this year, though distance learning will be offered and free meals will continue to be given out to those who qualify for them. A fall reopening of the state’s more than 700 school districts is still up in the air.

Cuomo said in June, he will be working with the State Board of Regents and the districts on guidelines for varying scenarios on how to reopen safely. He said the COVID-19-related syndrome in children is a concern in making those decisions, as well.

“We don’t want to make that decision until we have more facts,” Cuomo said.  

Meanwhile, the New York State Restaurant Association is asking that restaurants be allowed to open to outdoor dining in Phase Two of reopening plans, saying the shutdowns continue to devastate the industry. The governor did not address that issue in the briefing, but he did say an extension on sales tax filings, postponed from March 20 to May 19, will now be extended until June 22.

County health commissioners are also urging the public use some common sense as the reopenings start and the Memorial Day weekend gets underway. In a statement, the New York State Association of County Health Officials said people should comply with all social distancing rules and use “caution, reason and patience” as regions of the state begin to reopen.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.