TRENTON, NJ – Day care centers for the children of essential workers have been opened throughout the COVID-19 crisis. As Governor Phil Murphy announced Friday, they reopen to other parents on June 15. Within the next few weeks, non-contact sports activities and youth day camps also may open up. What does all this mean? What about pools?
Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, Christine Norbut Beyer offered insight as to what she foresees going forward as day care centers reopen. The focus will be on establishing health and safety standards in accordance with the CDC and other health organizations. Resources for Licensed Childcare Providers are already posted on the Department’s website.
Standards put in place for day care centers and camps may well set the stage when it comes to reopening of schools. Among other things, parents have expressed concerns about social distancing and the requirements for children to wear masks.
What does the governor's Executive Order mean for Wood-Ridge and Hasbrouck Heights youth sports and camps?
Both local Little Leagues take their cues from Little League International in Williamsport, PA, and have had activities postponed several times.
Wood-Ridge/Moonachie Little League president Phil Romero is "hoping for more details" from the governor's office. The Hasbrouck Heights Little League has been working for the last several weeks preparing the fields. According to league president Neil Peterson, they've sent a survey "to the league to gauge interest in who would still want to play and who doesn’t." He won't know if they'll have "true season" until survey results are in. The league has begun creating safety protocols and has reached out to the town for additional guidelines. Peterson looks to begin practices June 22 and noted "most likely all travel teams will play."
“Right now, it’s not recommended as safe for child under the age of two to wear masks,” said Norbut Beyer, who acknowledged there may be issues with requiring toddlers to wear them.
While the CDC recommends that children over the age of two wear masks, Norbut Beyer says her department will be talking with childcare providers concerning youngsters who want to remove them while they are in their care. It is not recommended that little ones taking naps wear masks during their naps.
“We are concerned with staff touching them and replacing the masks, which could be riskier,” Nobert Beyer shared. “This may come down to individual children and whether they have the capacity to keep them on.”
Day Care Centers that plan to reopen need to let the Office of Licensing know file an attestation indicating that they will follow the safety protocols in place for New Jersey's childcare centers.
The Department also plans to send out inspectors to the centers that plan to open. Summer camps will also be exhibited to adhere to the same standards. Residential and sleepaway camps are prohibited from opening in the state.
Locally, summer recreation camps are another matter.
Hasbrouck Heights Recreation Director Robert Brady announced this week that they "decided to cancel our recreation summer camp program." but noted "we will continue to monitor the “reopening of the state” if it becomes possible to hold our traditional summer camp at a later date in the summer, the recreation department will visit the feasibility of operating a safe, fun summer camp for the children and staff at that time."
In Wood-Ridge, the Recreation Commission canceled the summer camp in mid-May. Recreation Director Jacqueline Goldklang said the borough is "still in the planning phase" of creating an online recreation program, with information being available in the next few weeks. She said they still plan on having Camp Kindness Day.
According to Murphy, one of the benefits of summer camps and sports reopening gives kids the “opportunity to make memories.” He also cited mental health benefits, and an outlet for children who might be exposed to potential abuse at home.
“We’re going to learn an amount fairly quickly about what's working and what's not working as it relates to our wargaming back to school,” said the governor. “It’s not the reason we're doing it, but it is a side benefit from it.”
The state has not been a decision as far as reopening community pools and says it has become a challenging issue. Some municipalities have asked the state to hold off on opening them, citing the “intensity of interaction.”
The Hasbrouck Heights Swim Club has kept members updated with regular emails. Opening day was scheduled to be Memorial Day weekend.
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