180 cases of Covid-19 linked to a youth camp and a conference

At least 180 coronavirus infections in three states have been attributed to an Illinois teenage religious camp and affiliated men’s conference that did not require participants to be vaccinated or tested for the virus, according to a published survey Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been no deaths linked to the outbreak, but five of those infected had to be hospitalized, according to the CDC, which noted that not all people hospitalized were vaccinated. About 1,000 people in four states were ultimately exposed to the virus from people who attended the two events, which took place in mid-June.

The report, which expands on an earlier Illinois Department of Public Health investigation, highlights the dangers of ignoring established safety guidelines for summer camps, business meetings, and religious gatherings during a pandemic that continues to hit the United States.

And with the Delta variant causing significant spikes in infections in many states, some public health officials have expressed concerns about large Labor Day gatherings that do not include masks or control measures. admission, such as tests or proof of vaccination.

Sarah Patrick, Acting Illinois State Epidemiologist, said the outbreak illustrates the role children can play in transmitting the virus – and the importance of making sure they are included in them. efforts to curb its spread.

“We have learned that children, some of whom thought they could not easily spread the disease among themselves, may in fact be the fire starter that increases transmission beyond their immediate contacts and into the community,” she declared.

In the report, more than 120 of those infected were participants in camps and conferences, and most of the rest were members of their immediate household, the researchers said. Twenty-nine of the 180 people infected have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, also known to epidemiologists as SARS-CoV-2.

“This survey highlights the impact of secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during large events such as camps and conferences when Covid-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination, masking, physical distancing and drug tests, are not being implemented, ”the CDC report concluded. .

During the summer As the highly contagious Delta variant spread, there have been outbreaks in youth camps across the country. In New York City, 550 campers tested positive for the coronavirus during a sleep camp in July. In Texas, more than 125 teens and adults have tested positive at a camp organized by a church after an indoor event. The Kansas Department of Health has also reported several outbreaks linked to camps in and around the state.

Youth camps that have adopted testing and masks for participants – and contact tracing and isolation for those infected – have fared far better than those that have taken a more laissez-faire approach, according to one. number of studies.

The Crossing, a non-denominational Christian group that organized the five-day youth camp and two-day men’s conference, did not ask participants to be vaccinated or tested, nor did they require masks to be worn. during gatherings.

The “What to Bring” page of the camp website includes water shoes, sleeping bags, and the Bible, but makes no mention of masks. Campers were between 14 and 18 years old, making them eligible for vaccines.

The phone number listed on the Crossing Camp website was disconnected on Tuesday. Emails and voicemail messages left by a reporter asking for comment at the church’s main office in Quincy, Ill. Were not immediately returned.

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