Day cares, summer camps allowed to reopen but parents wonder if it’s safe to send their kids

ATLANTA — After Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new executive order Tuesday, day camps are now allowed to open up this summer as the state continues to reopen from the coronavirus shutdown — but will they?

Day cares are also allowed to double the number of people in their classroom starting Thursday.

Channel 2 Action News asked a pediatrician what you need to know before you send your child to a camp or day care. Right now, only about half of the state’s licensed day cares are currently open.

The YMCA told Channel 2’s Matt Johnson Wednesday that they would have summer camp here in Atlanta, but others would keep their doors shut.

For father-of-two Jamie Pate, sending his children to day care will provide some much-needed relief.

"It's been a challenge, even with a babysitter at our house, to have the kids in," Pate said.

Like many Georgians, Pate and his wife have been working while keeping the children at home.


So when their day care, Open Arms Lutheran Child Development Center, announced it was reopening after more than a month of closure, he jumped at the chance to get his son back to class.

“We were big proponents of coming back to the school,” Pate said.

But is it safe for your children to go back to day care or summer camp?

“It’s time. We can merge safely into doing some of these activities but with tremendously careful precautions,” said Dr. Avril Beckford, chief of pediatrics for Wellstar Health System.

Beckford said it’s a lot for parents to juggle COVID-19 concerns and the need to get back to work. She said empowering your children to make smart decisions would help keep them safe.

“Teaching children challenge and having to do thing differently makes us stronger. When we wash our hands, we protect ourselves. When we wear masks, we protect other people,” Beckford said.

According to Pam Stevens, the state’s deputy commissioner of child care, it’s important that there is a safe place for children when parents must go back to work.

“We don’t want people, out of desperation because they have to go to work, to find alternatives that aren’t safe for children,” Stevens said.

Stevens said 20 children, including the teacher, are now allowed in classrooms. But there are still some big changes.

Parents will not be allowed in day cares, and the playground equipment will have to be sanitized.

“If you think about child care, we are all about killing infectious disease. We do that every day of the year. That is a big part of what we do, and we’re good at this,” Stevens said.

But only about half of the state's licensed child care facilities are open.

Although the governor is allowing summer day camps to start, not all will be opening this summer.

“There are still a lot of questions after-school and summer learning providers have when they think about if they can or will be opening up for summer programming,” said Katie Landes with the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network.

Landes said summer programs should make sure they can hire and train a full staff.

Camps must have access to things such as face masks, hand sanitizer and other critical cleaning supplies all summer long, according to the governor’s new order.

A YMCA representative told Johnson Wednesday they plan on having camps and would have registration details in the next few days while the Girl Scouts of Metro Atlanta stated they would only offer virtual programs.

“It’s a question a lot of programs are going to be weighing, and it’s going to vary from program to program. I don’t think you’re going to see consistency across the board,” Landes said.

The governor’s order includes 33 guidelines for summer day camps:

  • Children will be screened for symptoms, including high temperature, cough, chill and sore throat.
  • Only 20 people or fewer in areas where people cannot be 6 feet apart.
  • Camp equipment must be sanitized between each use.
  • If possible, programs should require campers to bring their own lunch.

Beckford said there is a lot of information out there for parents who face a lot of anxious decisions about what’s best for their families.

“I think it’s important that parents give themselves a hug and give their children a hug and a virtual hug as well, and say we’ve got this,” Beckford said.

A previous version of this article stated summer camps could start July 1. This has been corrected.