Washington — Kevin Washington, president and CEO of the YMCA, said on Sunday he’s “happy” with the revised COVID-19 guidelines for children from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re happy with the CDC guidelines that they put forth.” Washington said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “And because of the partnership we had with the CDC and the American Camping Association, we feel very confident about being able to put forth a summer where kids will have fun, enjoy themselves, have some learnings, meet some new friends and be engaged in what I would call a summer of fun for our young folks who really, really need it this summer.”
On Friday, the CDC announced that youth camps can reopen this summer without masks and social distancing if attendees and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Camps must still comply with federal, state and local guidance.
With YMCAs located in all 50 states, Washington said all of his camps are “ensuring that they’re providing a safe environment and following local and state health officials as well as CDC guidelines.”
Washington said giving teachers, child care workers and camp counselors priority for the COVID-19 vaccines was an “extremely important” level of security for parents who wish to send their kids back to camp.
The national organization can’t require camp employees to be vaccinated, Washington said. He added that many camp counselors have taken the opportunity to get a COVID vaccine.
“We know that so many of our camp counselors have taken advantage of the opportunity, but it has not been mandated as of yet. As a national resource organization, we cannot mandate,” Washington said. “… We have to make sure that YMCAs follow state and local guidelines and many Ys are following what school districts are doing in their communities as well as a guide in this process. So we cannot mandate because each YMCA is a independent organization, 501(c)(3) and have to follow local and state health guidelines.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many inequities within the U.S. education system and child care programs. Washington said that “access and equity is a key component” of the YMCA organization and the pandemic proved the organization is “a vital community asset.” Throughout the pandemic, Washington said the YMCA provided 1,400 child care sites for first responders and 1,300 feeding sites despite facing financial loss in the past year.
“We know that kids of color and kids in marginalized communities have been affected disproportionately by COVID-19,” Washington said. “We’re making extremely strong efforts to ensure that we have the resources available to support them as they come to camp.”