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260 kids and teens infected with COVID-19 at Georgia sleepaway camp

A row of cabins.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

More than 250 children and teens tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a sleepaway camp in Georgia, according to a new report.

The young staff and campers took some measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as keeping children in groups based on their cabins, social distancing outside of cabins and frequent cleanings. But critically, masks were not required for the campers, only for staff, according to the report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The findings show that COVID-19 "spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting," and that the measures taken by the camp were not enough to prevent an outbreak, the authors said.

Related: Should schools reopen amid the pandemic?

The camp attendees included 120 staff members and 138 people training for staff positions, who arrived on June 17; an additional 363 young campers arrived on June 21, the report said. The average age of staff and trainees was 17 years old, and the average age of campers was 12 years old. All camp attendees were required to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test no more than 12 days before arriving. (Still, a negative COVID-19 test would not guarantee that no one would bring the disease to the camp, given that people did not need to quarantine before coming and may have caught the disease shortly before or after their tests.)

Campers "engaged in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, including daily vigorous singing and cheering," the report said. 

But on June 23, a teen staff member left the camp after developing chills, and tested positive for COVID-19 the next day. As a result, camp officials began sending attendees home on June 24, and they officially closed the camp on June 27.

Soon, public health officials began investigating the outbreak, collecting information on Georgia residents who tested positive between the time they arrived at the camp and within 14 days of leaving the camp.

Of the 597 Georgia residents who attended the camp, tests results were available for 344 attendees. Of these, 260 individuals, or 76%, tested positive. That means the "attack rate," or the percent who tested positive out of the overall group, was at least 44%, the report said.

Information on symptoms was available for 136 attendees, and of these, 26% did not show symptoms. (The true rate of asymptomatic cases may well have been higher given that people who refused testing may have been asymptomatic and that many of those who did test positive didn't have data available on symptoms.) Among those who did have symptoms, the most common were fever, headache and a sore throat.

The case report adds to the evidence that "children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection [the virus that causes COVID-19]" and that they might play a more important role in transmission than initially thought, the report said.

The authors added that "relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering likely contributed to transmission." Singing was thought to play a role in a "superspreading" event in which more than 50 people were infected with COVID-19 at a choir practice in Washington state.

The authors note that the attack rate in this Georgia outbreak is likely an underestimate because cases could have been missed among those not tested or those whose results were not available. On the flip side, some cases might have resulted from community transmission that occurred before or after the camp dates, they said.

Further investigation of this outbreak is needed to examine specific activities tied to infection, as well as the outcomes for patients and whether any household members caught the disease from the campers.

THe CDC said in a statement that summer camps pose "a unique challenge" for preventing the spread of infectious diseases. "Correct and consistent use of cloth masks, rigorous cleaning and sanitizing, social distancing, and frequent handwashing strategies — which are recommended in CDC's recently released guidance to reopen America's schools — are critical to prevent transmission of the virus in settings involving children and are our greatest tools to prevent COVID-19," the statement.

Originally published on Live Science. 

  • Hitshed
    Well.... wasn't that just a coviasco. I smell lawyers already lining up.
    Reply
  • mgallagher465
    Hitshed said:
    Well.... wasn't that just a coviasco. I smell lawyers already lining up.
    Sadly, I agree, but if the conditions were made clear beforehand (e.g., masks would be worn by staff but not the campers) I don't think that lawsuit should have merit.

    I am personally more interested in eventual outcomes. It seems COVID has evolved to be more contagious to a younger demographic, but also to be milder in general. If all or most of the infected campers (and potential family/friends they infected) only suffer mild symptoms, then it's possible that COVID has devolved into a flu-like virus and is no longer the grave threat that it was originally.
    Reply
  • James2k20
    mgallagher465 said:
    I am personally more interested in eventual outcomes. It seems COVID has evolved to be more contagious to a younger demographic, but also to be milder in general. If all or most of the infected campers (and potential family/friends they infected) only suffer mild symptoms, then it's possible that COVID has devolved into a flu-like virus and is no longer the grave threat that it was originally.

    It seems COVID has evolved to be more contagious to a younger demographic, but also to be milder in general. The younger and healthy demographic always had a practically non existent risk and being healthier in general, they're more likely to develop mild symptoms - the same as influenza. COVID was never a grave threat to society - that much was evident from the beginning with the ages and pre-existing health conditions of the ones who did die with the virus and it kept continuous throughout. At best, it's got nothing to do with evolution of the virus and everything to do with us knowing who the most at risk groups are and getting them to take the necessary precautions the same as they would against any pathogen while the rest of us get on with our lives - or at least try to without the interference from the doomsday parade.
    Reply
  • mogoso
    What it doesn't say if anyone was hospitalized, which I doubt. How will humans develop immunity without the strongest (in this case the youngest) becoming exposed to pass that immunity to their children.
    Reply
  • Nstar
    This is the responsibility of a incompetent government allowing people and making irrational decisions to open up activities schools or camps without providing strict guidelines and also people that do not care knowing there is a pandemic to put lives of kids and others at risk being given leadership. Its like a roller coaster the media and the politicians one day claiming statistics are low the next day opening up infection spreads. Just does not work that way, people also need to be responsible but that has not been the case as discipline is required and masses do not like discipline whether it is black lives that matter walking and shouting hands in hand no masks based on their own choice or causing unrest or other. Everyone likes freedom but not the responsibility that comes with it.
    Reply
  • adam
    Why should staff but not students be required to wear masks ?

    It has now been admitted by Dr Fauci that he knew masks protected the wearer but he did not advise the public of this early on because he feared there would be a mask shortage.

    https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/502890-fauci-why-the-public-wasnt-told-to-wear-masks
    Also note the Georgia camp covid-19 infection rate of 76% is pretty much the same as on the USS Roosevelt for those not wearing masks 80%

    The asympotmatic rates were of 26% and 18.5%.

    A US Navy and CDC study of the USS Roosevelt crew that was infected with covid-19 showed that only 55% of those wearing masks caught covid-19 while 80% not wearing masks caught covid-19 and 18.5% of COVID-19 patients on Navy vessel were asymptomatic

    There is other useful info in the study
    https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2020/06/10/Study-18-of-COVID-19-patients-on-Navy-vessel-asymptomatic/2491591762970/
    https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6923e4.htm?s_cid=mm6923e4_w
    https://forums.www.discoverynewsjournal.com/threads/do-masks-help-stop-the-wearer-from-catching-covid-19.2955/
    Reply