As school ends the camp season begins and many area camps, citing increased precautions, remain unconcerned about the swine flu virus.
Many area camp officials reached by this newspaper reported that they have received guidelines from county and state health departments reinforcing sanitary practices. None of the directors interviewed said that fears of the flu were keeping parents from sending their children to camp.
At Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, which maintains an office in Englewood, only one parent has written to director Rabbi Paul Resnick about flu concerns. Even with 565 children registered, Resnick is not concerned about an outbreak in camp. He has received no advisories from local health departments warning of potential outbreaks and the camp is following hygiene guidelines. Campers and staff will be screened upon arrival and parents have been told to keep their children home if they have a fever within three days of the July 1 start date. With a doctor and four nurses on staff, Resnick is confident that the camp can handle “any eventuality.”
“Parents for the most part have full faith and trust in camp and that’s why they’re not calling or e-mailing in panic, because they feel secure in sending their kids to camp,” he said.
The Neil Klatskin Day Camp at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly receives weekly e-mails from the Center for Disease Control on best practices.
“We’re gathering information at this point,” said day camp director Stacy Budkofsky. “Hopefully we won’t have to deal with anything, [but] we are preparing for the circumstances if they arrive.”
Rabbi Chanoch Kaplan, director of Chabad of Franklin Lakes and its Gan Israel Day Camp of Oakland, said he had recently returned from Costco with commercial-size bottles of Purell hand sanitizer.
“We’re taking precautions,” he said. “We’re taking extra care to ensure children are constantly having their hands cleaned.”
Many camps are looking to local health departments for guidance. Instructions from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services include covering mouths and noses during coughs and sneezes and then immediately disposing of tissues; washing hands frequently with warm water and soap; and staying home if one is sick and avoiding sick people.
“They’re going to set up the policy for us,” said Rabbi Sam Vogel, director of Ma Tov Day Camp in Old Tappan. “Then we’ll formulate our own policy on top of that.”
At the day camps at the YM-YWHA of Greater Clifton-Passaic, counselors are prepared to reinforce hygiene techniques as well as to send home any child exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Children who are sent home will not be allowed back without a doctor’s note.
“The important thing is that the parents communicate with the camp and sick children stay home from the camp,” said Rosanne Mendelowitz, the Y’s assistant director.
Camp is set to begin at the Y on June 29 and its nurse is preparing an explanation of the policy to send home with children on the first day. The camp is being “very proactive,” Mendelowitz said.
The World Health Organization last week declared the spread of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, a pandemic that has struck almost 30 countries. Locally, Yeshivat Noam in Paramus closed for three days in late May because of concerns of flu-like symptoms among students. Ramaz in New York canceled its Grade 8 Advancement ceremony on Monday night and closed its middle school on Tuesday and Wednesday because of an increasing number of sick students and concern that they would attend the ceremony.