260 Kids And Teens Infected With Covid-19 At Georgia Sleepaway Camp

September 14, 2020

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

The young staff and campers took steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as having children grouped according to their cabins, social grooming outside the cabins and frequent cleaning. But crucially, according to the report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require campers to wear masks, only staff members.

The authors say the findings show that COVID-19 “spreads efficiently in overnight youth-centered settings” and that the measures taken by the camp were not enough to prevent the outbreak.

The camp participants included 120 staff and 138 staff job trainees, who arrived on June 17; another 363 youth campers arrived on June 21, the report said. The average age of the staff and trainees was 17, and the average age of the campers was 12. All camp participants were required to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test no more than 12 days prior to arrival. (However, a negative COVID-19 test does not guarantee that no one will bring the disease to camp, as people do not need to be quarantined before arriving and may have contracted the disease shortly before or after the test).

According to the report, campers “participated in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, including intense daily singing and cheering.”

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

Public health officials soon began investigating the outbreak, gathering information on Georgia residents who tested positive within 14 days of arriving and leaving the camp.

Of the 597 Georgia residents who attended the camp, 344 of the participants tested positive. Of those, 260, or 76 percent, tested positive. That means the “assault rate,” or the percentage of the overall group who tested positive, was at least 44 percent, the report said.

There were 136 participants with symptom information, 26 percent of whom had no symptoms. (The true rate of asymptomatic cases would likely be higher, given that those who refused to test may have been asymptomatic and many of those who did test positive had no available symptom data.) Of those who did have symptoms, the most common were fever, headache and 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 may play a more important role in transmission than initially thought, the report says.

The authors added that “relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering are likely to contribute to transmission”. Singing is thought to have played a role in the “supertransmission” event, in which more than 50 people were infected with COVID-19 at a choir practice in Washington state.

The authors note that the rate of attack in this Georgia outbreak is likely underestimated because some cases may have been missed among those who were not tested or among those whose results are unknown. In turn, they say, some cases may have resulted from community transmission that occurred before or after the camp date.

Further investigation of this outbreak will need to examine specific activities tied to the infection, as well as patient outcomes and whether any family members from campers caught the disease.

The THe CDC said in a statement that summer camps pose “unique challenges to preventing the spread of infectious diseases.” Proper and consistent use of cloth masks, strict cleaning and disinfection, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing strategies – all recommended in the CDC’s recently released guidelines for reopening U.S. schools – are critical to preventing the spread of the virus in environments involving children and are our greatest tools for preventing COVID-19,” the statement said.