How COVID-19 Raced Through a Georgia Summer Camp

Henrietta Brewer
August 5, 2020

A CDC report out Friday documents COVID-19 transmission and infection at an overnight camp in the Peach State, which WSB-TV has confirmed is the YMCA's Camp High Harbour, located in Rabun County along Lake Burton.

Almost 600 people were at the overnight camp, which was not named in the report by Georgia health officials and the CDC, and among the 344 campers on whom data was available to the agency, three-quarters tested positive. Campers started being sent home on June 24, and the camp closed on June 27.

The report said a teenage staff member developed chills on the evening of June 22 and left the camp the following day.

Hundreds of children contracted the coronavirus at a summer camp in the U.S. state of Georgia last month, health authorities said Friday, adding to a growing body of evidence that minors are both susceptible to infection and vectors of transmission.

Additionally, the report noted that campers slept in not well ventilated cabins and participated 'in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, including daily vigorous singing and cheering'. They say the two measures not implemented were cloth masks for campers and opening windows and doors for increased ventilation in buildings.

In Washington state, health officials said that at least 30% of residents who tested positive for coronavirus contracted it from an asymptomatic person.

According to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the overnight camp opened on June 17th, following the state's easing of restrictions on May 31st that allowed camps to operate again.

So, as debate rages as to the safety of sending children back to school this fall, "this investigation adds to the body of evidence demonstrating that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission", Szablewski's group said. When they were tested for the virus, around 260 of them tested positive for COVID-19.

Camp employees were required to wear cloth masks but campers were not.

If anyone tested positive, they were told to isolate. But recent evidence chipped away at the claim that kids are unaffected, with new research emerging this week about the association between school closures and declines in number of cases and deaths. Two thirds of the people infected were children under 18.

Test results were available for 344 (58%) camp attendees.

The agency notes the attack rates could be underestimated because some cases may have been missed or the test results not reported.

Of these, 74% had mild symptoms such as fever, headache and sore throat.

Lastly, researchers said they have no way of gauging an attendee's "individual adherence" to measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.

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