Camps face a new risk amid a measles outbreak

Suffern, New York — A fresh coat of paint and final touches are being made for the 62 summer at Deerkill Day Camp in Suffern, New York. This year will be a little different, after owner and director Todd Rothman sent an email to his camper families saying religious exemptions for vaccinations will no longer be allowed.

“Everyone on our grounds, all of our campers, and all of our staff will have either proof of immunity or MMR vaccination,” Rothman said.

Deerkill is in Rockland County, New York, where a measles outbreak is centered in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. More than 260 cases have been reported in the county so far. Deerkill is not a religious camp, but Rothman still heard complaints from several families. Only one decided not to send their child, a 12-year-old girl.

“She had been with us for a few years. They were disappointed, they were upset, and they engaged me in a bit of discussion about the merits of vaccines which I am not in the business of. I’m in the business of making sure our campers are safe,” Rothman said.

Precautions against measles are so stringent here, the bus companies have assured the camp owners that the 50 or so buses that pass through the gates every day don’t carry children who are unvaccinated on their other routes.

When all those kids show up later this month, camp nurse Jennifer Buonadonna will be on the outlook for a disease she’s never seen.

“It’s one of those things in nursing school that when we went through the childhood diseases unit, we learned about it, but we kind of glossed over it because it was something that really wasn’t seen,” she said.

She studied up on the symptoms and is taking precautions seriously so summer camp means a summer without measles.

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