Are Houston-area summer camps canceled?

Summer Camp (Pixabay)

HOUSTON – Texas schools are shuttered. Playgrounds closed. Extracurriculars on hold. And the spring sports season canceled. Across the state, parents, children and camp organizers holed up indoors amid stay-at-home edicts and a slew of coronavirus-related restrictions are wondering whether summer camps will proceed or, if they too, will get the axe.

Some Houston-area summer camps have already announced they won’t open due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Houston Zoo’s Camp Zoofari canceled its upcoming summer programming. The zoo remains closed after shuttering to the public in mid-March. It’s unclear when it will reopen.

And the University of Houston, Rice University and Texas A&M University have all announced the cancellation of some summer camp programs.

Other camps are in a wait-and-see holding pattern, monitoring the pandemic’s progress while awaiting guidance from state and local health officials.

The Texas Department of State Health Services told KPRC 2 it was waiting on direction from Gov. Greg Abbott before issuing any recommendations or guidance. KPRC 2 reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment on the status of the state’s summer camps but received no response.

As Abbott announces steps to reopen a wide range of Texas businesses, the nebulous status of summer camps becomes ever more concerning for parents who could soon face a return to work. Many parents rely on summer camps to care for and educate their children whilst school is out.

While the status of summer camps is unclear at a state level, the White House Coronavirus Task Force offered some guidance to states regarding camps in its recently announced “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.” The plans calls for camps and other “organized youth activities” to reopen in phase 2 of the three-phase plan.

Before beginning the three-phase process of reopening, the plan recommends that the states meet specific “gating criteria”:

  • States have a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period and have a downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.
  • States have a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests).
  • Hospitals are treating patients without crisis care and have a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.

The American Camp Association told KPRC 2 camps at this time are awaiting guidance from the CDC as well as state and county public health authorities. In the meantime, camp organizers are developing contingency plans like online and virtual programs.

“We expect to have more information to share by early-May regarding the future status of camp operations,” the ACA said in a statement to KPRC 2. "Beyond this, we do not wish to speculate on the ever-evolving nature of COVID-19’s impact on the summer camp 2020 season. "

According to the ACA, there are more than 14,000 day and overnight camps in the U.S. serving more than 20 million children and families annually.

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About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.