Georgia children's camp that led to 260 positive Covid-19 cases suggests kids likely to spread infection: CDC

The incident at the camp, which was held in June, suggests that Covid-19 can 'spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting' despite organizers implementing some protective measures


                            Georgia children's camp that led to 260 positive Covid-19 cases suggests kids likely to spread infection: CDC
(Getty Images)

At least 260 people who attended an overnight children's camp in Georgia have contracted Covid-19, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These findings suggest that children are not only vulnerable but are also likely to spread the infection.

The incident at the camp, which was held in June, suggests that Covid-19 can "spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting" despite organizers implementing some protective measures. These include keeping children in groups, following social distancing outside of cabins, and frequent cleanings, the CDC said. They also pointed out that only staff— and not the children — wore cloth masks.

"Settings, like multi-day, overnight summer camps, pose a unique challenge when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases, considering the amount of time campers and staff members spend in close proximity," the CDC said in a statement.

The camp held an orientation for 138 trainees and 120 staff members between June 17–20. The following day, they were joined by 363 campers aged from 6 to 19. Then on June 23, a teenage staff member developed chills and had to leave the camp. Her tests for Covid-19 came back positive the next day. Soon, the organizers began sending participants home and alerted the Department of Health.

These findings suggest that children are not only vulnerable but are also likely to spread the infection
 (Getty Images)

The CDC said that 597 Georgia residents attended the camp, and 260 tested positive. Of them, about 231 were among children aged between 6 and 17. On the whole, the number of people who contracted the infection — or the attack rate — was 44%. Staff members had the highest attack rate of 56%.

Researchers had data on symptoms experienced by 136 cases. Among them, 36 reported no symptoms. Of the remaining 100, 65% documented fever, 61% headache, and 46%  had a sore throat. The asymptomatic spread may have contributed to undetected transmission. "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 multiple measures adopted by the camp were not sufficient to prevent an outbreak in the context of substantial community transmission," the CDC wrote in its report. Large groups sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering may have contributed to the spread of the disease, they added.

The study has a few limitations. The researchers suspect that their findings may have underestimated the attack rate "because cases might have been missed among persons not tested or whose test results were not reported." Further, they also cannot rule out the possibility that some children may have caught the infection either before or after attending the camp.

"Correct and consistent use of cloth masks, rigorous cleaning and sanitizing, social distancing, and frequent hand washing 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," they wrote.

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