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New York Beaches To Open, But Summer Day Camps Still In Question

Seth Wenig
A man adjusts a child's mask before heading out to the sand at Orchard Beach in the Bronx last weekend. Parks, boardwalks and beaches attracted some crowds, though beaches aren't officially open until Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day weekend begins with beaches opening up, and other tentative steps to restart the economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo says, in his daily coronavirus 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, 11:00 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 possiblity 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 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 says 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 over 700 school districts 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 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 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.

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Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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