By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu will consider recommended COVID-19 guidance for opening up overnight camps and day camps in the state this summer.
The focus of the new guidance will be on everyone wearing masks, regardless of vaccinations, and that outside is always best for activities, including eating. Overnight campers should expect to be tested for the virus before arriving, when arriving and seven days after arriving.
On Thursday, the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force voted unanimously to recommend the set of guidelines which will now be considered by Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, and Sununu for final authorization.
Last year, many overnight camps did not open because of the virus last summer but those that did had better outcomes against the virus than those in other state’s because of a focus on quarantines prior to camp, testing for the virus before, when arriving and in the first seven days, said Trish Tilley, deputy director of the Division of Public Health Services.
A copy of the recommended guidance, which the industry helped developed, is here https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/3db3ed2d-eb24-4f46-84c1-97bf63724f17/DRAFT-Guidance-Overnight-Camps-2-10-2021.pdf
Day Camps in the state also got the thumbs up from the task force for a new set of guidance which is located here.https://www.nheconomy.com/getmedia/2242b81d-f5c7-4d1c-9e19-52e58e1b8f39/DRAFT-Day-Camp-Revision-for-NH-TASKFORCE-DHHS_2-10-2021_1.pdf.
D.J. Bettencourt, chair of the task force, said he expects to ramp up new guidance to open up various other aspects of the economy now that the trend on metrics shows the cases of the virus declining in the state.
Tilley noted that the state’s seven-day average for new cases of the virus is down 22 percent from the previous seven days and that hospitalizations, at 142, are going down and staying down compared to December.
The state has received 277,235 vaccines for COVID-19 and 176,000 have been administered with an expectation that the number of vaccinations will increase from 20,389 a week and that as they do, more appointment spots will open up. The state is currently vaccinating at a rate of 3,000 to 4,000 a day.
Bettencourt said he is hearing from many business owners and aspects of the economy eager to start to revisit existing restrictive guidance related to the pandemic as evidence shows its grip on the state is loosening as the summer approaches.
He called the summer camp guidance “a very solid product” and said camps need to plan ahead for their summer and know what is expected to help inform their decision on whether or not to reopen. Bettencourt said he expected to put the recommendations in front of the governor in hopes of quick approval.
He also said that the task force will expand to have new members from highly impacted aspects of the economy such as those in the performing arts, outdoor venues, and the wedding industry in the coming weeks adding there are a number of names the task force is recommending to the governor.
Also of concern going forward is planning for the summer months at the beaches and businesses that have outside events, activities.
John Nyhan, president of the Hampton Beach Area Chamber said, “It’s so important for us to start planning now rather than wait for June.”
“You’re not off the hook,” Bettencourt said. “We are going to want that perspective as part of our efforts here” and work with Parks Director Phil Bryce and Mike Somers of the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association, who are all members of the task force.
Bettencourt said now is the time for the task force to again roll up its sleeves and update guidance as the once glimmer of hope in January has turned to solid downturn data.
The tentative next date for the task force to meet virtually is Feb. 26 at 11 a.m. For more information on how to listen or participate in public comment periods, which are held twice at each meeting go to https://www.nheconomy.com/reopeningtaskforce