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Parents Are Skeptical About Summer Camp During Coronavirus Pandemic

Doris Bravo-Hieger playing with her two children, Oliver and Penelope.
Doris Bravo-Hieger
Doris Bravo-Hieger playing with her two children, Oliver and Penelope.

Last week,  Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan to reopen public schools at full capacity in August. Weeks prior, he had approved the opening of summer camps throughout the state. Local officials in South Florida, who were at first apprehensive about summer activities, are now allowing them under social distancing guidelines. 

Although kids have been cooped up for months, many parents are skeptical about taking them to camp this year. 

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Doris Bravo-Hieger is a mother of two. She said she doesn't feel comfortable sending her 3-year-old son Oliver back to his preschool. He is considered moderately at risk with upper respiratory issues. His 7-month-old sister Penelope is high-risk with a heart condition. She had open-heart surgery right before the pandemic began.“For her, a normal common cold … could mean that she has to go to the hospital,” Bravo-Hieger said.

Oliver had a hard time adjusting to staying at home. He spent the last two years going to his preschool full time. Bravo-Hieger is confident that the school will take the necessary precautions to keep kids safe. However, she is concerned about the local government’s lack of leadership and action. She said Hollywood and neighboring communities need a concrete plan with contact tracing.

“Until that happens, I just don’t feel comfortable going anywhere,” she said. “It’s nothing even against the preschool. We just look at each other out on the street like everyone has it, and that's not the case. Who has it? We don’t know.”

Nancy Fry wants her two kids to go outdoors and socialize this summer. However, she is waiting to see how COVID-19 cases evolve in Broward before sending them to camp. 

“The biggest problem is we can't make an informed decision because we don’t have all the information,” Fry said. “We don't have all the data and until we have that, we’re all just kind of playing fast and loose with what we personally think is safe and not safe.”

She is relying on a list of resources she compiled at the beginning of the pandemic to keep her kids entertained. She is also open to the idea of signing them up for virtual summer camps.

“A couple months ago I never would have dreamed of, as a parent, going out and buying my 4-year-old a tablet,” she said. “It’s the only way I can get work done sometimes.”

Norma Schwartz tried limiting her kids screen time, but realized her kids connect with their friends online. Her 10-year-old daughter Izabella attends Zoom movie nights, while her 7-year-old son Maximiliano joins multiplayer games.

“It was like his sense of normalcy that he could play with his friends like he used to,” Schwartz said.

This is far from their usual summer plans, which consist of being active and enjoying nature. Last summer, they frequently went sailing and kayaking with their summer camp.

“We want them to learn to love Miami,” she said. “We do have nature. We have mangroves and the bay and the ocean ... It’s always been that time where they can play in the city.”

Schwartz is considering alternatives, including forming a small pod with families that she trusts. The kids would only be allowed to play with those in the group and parents would be responsible for not overexposing their families.

These moms all shared the common goal of keeping their kids happy and healthy this summer. 

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Natalia Clement