Many kids face 'really sad' summer without camp

The pandemic hit just as many overnight camps across the Southeast were finalizing their plans for the summer 2020 season. 

For Isabella Cabrices, this would have been her sixth summer at Eagle's Nest Camp, an camp nestled in the Pisgah Forest in the North Carolina mountains. 

When 14-year-old's eighth-grade year suddenly fell apart back in March, when her Decatur, Georgia, middle school abruptly shut down, Cabrices set her sights on June, and her two-week camp.

She would see her friends again, she told herself.

"I was just really hoping that things would be better by the summer, so I could go to camp, and have things be more normal," Cabrices says.

Then came the email, notifying them summer camp had been cancelled.

Isabella's mother Desiree Cabrices says they had been bracing for news there would be no camp, but it still stung.

"We were just waiting on that email, but we had discussed it before," she says.  "We just kind of said, we understand that whatever decision they made was for the safety and health of everyone.  But, of course, it was still a blow, receiving it, even though we simultaneously understood."

While Governor Brian Kemp has said Georgia overnight camps can reopen June 1, 2020, the camps must comply with a long list of safety measures designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Staff and campers must be tested for COVID-19 within 7 days prior to the start of camp.

They also must be fever-free for at least 72 hours prior to arriving and without symptoms for at least 10 days.  

Campers and employees who test positive but have no symptoms must wait until 10 days after their positive test result before attending camp.

If anyone leaves the premises for any reason, they will be required to get tested again before they can return to the camp.

Dr. David Kimberlin, Chair of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says the South may not be ready for summer camps to reopen.

"In order to really begin to loosen up, we need to do it slowly, and we need data," Dr. Kimberlin says. "We need to be able to loosen some, turn the spigot on a little bit, and then watch, and I'm talking about for 3 or 4 weeks, to see what the results are."

If new infections and hospitalizations continue to drop, Dr. Kimberlin says, we may have enough data to support reopening overnight camps in July or August.

But, he cautions, this virus is unpredictable.

"And, none of us have the answer," Kimberlin says. "There is no single answer here.  What we need to do though, is, we need to go slow, and we need to gather the data."

Isabella Cabrices still has one more option.

She is registered for r another camp in north Georgia in early July.

After cancelling three June sessions, that camp is waiting before making a decision on its late summer sessions.

Instead of going to Eagle's Nest, Isabella Cabrices is working as a nanny for a neighbor's 2-year-old son.

She's trying to focus on the summer of 2021, which feels like a long way off.

"I'm just really, really sad," Cabrices says. "All my camp friends live all across (the country)." So, this is my only chance to see them.  So, I was just looking forward to seeing them and having another year where I could learn."