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Beaches to open, but summer day camps still in question

Governor Cuomo leaves daily corona virus briefing in NYC Thursday, May 21
Governor Cuomo's office
Governor Cuomo leaves daily corona virus briefing in NYC Thursday, May 21

Memorial Day weekend begins with beaches opening up, and other tentative steps to restart the economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo says, in his daily corona virus briefing, that 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, 11 o’clock in the morning,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something to take into consideration.”

Cuomo, who grew up in Queens, says he knows many people 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 possibly of another hot weather tradition, summer camps, seems less likely. Cuomo says no decision has yet been made about opening day camps, but he says there are growing concerns and many unanswered questions about the pediatric inflammatory disease associated with COVID- 19.  

Cuomo aide Robert Mujica says 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 says the state health department is investigating 157 cases of the syndrome, which has led to the deaths of 4 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 says in person summer school is cancelled 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 over 700 school district is still up in the air. Cuomo says in June, he’ll be working with the State Board of Regents and the districts on guidelines for varying scenarios on how to reopen safely. He says 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 that the shut downs 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 20th to May 19th, will now be extended until June 22nd.

County health commissioners are also urging the public use some common sense as the reopening starts 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 the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.