Christian Camps Tried to Keep the Coronavirus Away. It Didn’t Always Work.

Even with increased safety protocols in place, some Christian camps could not keep out COVID-19 this summer.

Week after week, the headlines tracked the outbreaks: 82 cases at Camp Kanakuk in Missouri, an evangelical camp that draws kids from 10 states. Dozens at a church camp in Keller, Texas, and more at Allaso Ranch in Hawkins, Texas, where kids worshiped together unmasked. At least 54 people at Springs Ministries Summer Camp in Michigan tested positive. Another 25 campers and staff, all under 20, caught the virus at Trout Creek Bible Camp in Oregon.

Then, a Centers for Disease Control investigation revealed the largest case: a single YMCA camp session in Lake Burton, Georgia, where 260 of the 597 campers and staff members (44%) contracted the virus within days.

According to the Christian Camping and Conference Association (CCCA), the outbreaks represent a minority of its 870 member camps, only 7 percent of which had reported confirmed COVID-19 cases among campers or staff last month. Camp High Harbor, the YMCA camp in Georgia, is not a CCCA member.

“CCCA has encouraged our members who have chosen to open to stringently follow the CDC guidelines and to adhere to local health department regulations,” CCCA president Gregg Hunter said. “The report out of Georgia punctuates that need with an emphasis on the need for vigilance in mask-wearing.”

As CT previously reported, camps wrestled with regulations and risks in the spring, and many opted to cancel in-person programing (62% of camps overall, according to a survey by camp technology platform CampMinder). Some, like Kanakuk in Missouri, opened but then canceled when the coronavirus situation changed.

Even though Camp High Harbor started sending home campers the same day they learned of the positive COVID-19 test, it wasn’t enough to contain the spread. The camp had organized the campers into smaller groups, encouraged social distancing and hand washing, and required staff to wear face masks, but failed to follow several key recommendations. It had not required campers to wear masks, had not opened windows and doors when campers were inside, and had held activities that included “daily vigorous singing and cheering.”

“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 report said.

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Source: Christianity Today