Green light from DeSantis on camps, but city says no

  • The Girls and Boys Club summer camp programs will remain closed due to covid-19 concerns despite an about-face by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said Friday that camps like these could be reopened statewide if local governments wished. (CARL MCKINNEY/Lake City Reporter)
    The Girls and Boys Club summer camp programs will remain closed due to covid-19 concerns despite an about-face by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said Friday that camps like these could be reopened statewide if local governments wished. (CARL MCKINNEY/Lake City Reporter)
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Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday gave the green light for summer camps to open along with youth sports activities, but a popular pair of boys and girls programs in Lake City are still canceled. 

Earlier in the week, the Lake City Girls Club and Boys Club, both operated by the city, informed parents about the summer camps being axed. City Manager Joe Helfenberger cited the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order, but said he had his own concerns as well. 

During a press conference Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would allow summer camps to reopen, but local governments and organizations are still free to set their own parameters. The state won’t preempt local rules on the matter, the governor said. 

Following that announcement, Helfenberger clarified that the decision to cancel the Girls and Boys Club summer camps will still stand. 

“The fact that Gov. DeSantis came out right before Memorial Day holiday weekend and stated that summer camps and youth activities can open without restrictions — that does not make it any safer,” Helfenberger said. “It’s still unsafe for elementary schools, secondary schools and post-secondary schools to reopen, why would it be safe for youth programs?” 

Parents were unhappy when they learned the local summer camps had been canceled, according to Girls and Boys Club staffers. Helfenberger said he understands the frustration, especially for parents who rely on the programs for childcare over the summer.

“I didn’t just take this decision lightly,” Helfenberger said. “Again, the safety of our kids is very important.” 

The city is looking at alternatives to helping parents get care for their children during this time, Helfenberger said. 

DeSantis on Friday said nobody in Florida under the age of 25 has died from covid-19.

Helfenberger said he researched the data on his own. 

Nationwide, at least 88 people under the age of 25 have died from covid-19 alone, Helfenberger said. Another 27 people in that age group died due to a confirmed combination of covid-19 and influenza, and 491 additional deaths of people under 25 are related to the covid-19  but it’s not been confirmed whether that alone killed them or some combination of the virus and other factors.

Even if a child shows no symptoms, he or she can still spread the virus to others, Helfenberger said. 

 The Girls and Boys Club summer camp programs are available to children ages 6 through 12. Those who are 13 and older can only participate as volunteers. 

Camp-goers get to go on field trips, make arts and crafts, play games and more.

Organizers from the clubs say the summer camps give children an outlet for healthy social interaction when school is out.