Georgia camp outbreak shows rapid virus spread among children
By J. Scott Trubey, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
COVID-19 spread quickly among unmasked youth at YMCA camp, CDC finds.
Some 260 cases of the coronavirus have been tied to attendees and staff at a North Georgia YMCA children’s camp in June, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the largest known superspreading events in the state.
The report details how COVID-19 spread rapidly among children and teens within the camp and raises questions about the effectiveness of safety protocols as school districts and colleges contemplate reopening for in-person instruction this fall.
YMCA Camp High Harbour, identified in the report as Camp A, suffered an outbreak at its Lake Burton location in late June. As of July 10, about 85 cases of the virus had been linked to the camp, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported, a figure that has since tripled.
The CDC study of 597 campers and staff from Georgia found the camp did not follow its guidance to require campers wear masks, though staff did.
Three-quarters of the 344 attendees and staff for whom the CDC was able to obtain test results tested positive for the virus.
The CDC said the overall attack rate of the virus was 44%, though the agency acknowledged that’s an undercount because it includes more than 250 for whom they had no results.
“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,” the report said.
Brian Castrucci, CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, a Maryland nonprofit that assists public health agencies and a former epidemiologist in Georgia, said the report is a warning for local school districts and others about the potential for spread in congregant settings.
“This should show you how actively kids can transmit it,” he said. “If you have a low prevalence in your community, you can start to do things. If you have rampant and rapid community spread, then there is no opening school, there is no opening colleges. It is not going to work.”