In the first few weeks of this summer, teenage campers from all over the country gathered in a rural Christian camp in North Carolina to seek faith and fun that turned into a superspreader nightmare within a few weeks.
A family of camper vans, said to be “great” escapes, pay about $ 350 a week to send their kids to a campsite surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains for hiking, swimming, ziplines, barbecues, and “words of God Gathering for the “healthy part”. According to the description on the camp website.
However, Transylvania County public health officials told The Daily Beast that Campers returned home with both COVID-19 memories and cases after returning to Wilds campsites to track at least 76 cases nationwide. Told.
According to health officials, 76 cases in 17 states have been associated with The Wilds and have provided teens with games and Bible passages during summer sessions for over 50 years.
“There is certainly a possibility that more cases will be identified,” said Tara Ribka, a spokesman for the Transylvania Public Health Service, due to delays in reporting cases from other states. He added that it is likely.
Photos posted on Wild Facebook page During a faith-based session from June 28th to July 17th, we will feature children swarming around outdoor activities with almost no masks.
Health officials refused to comment on whether the cluster painted a picture of a camp that did not carefully comply with safety requirements during the pandemic. The camp brochure and registration form on The Wilds website does not mention the COVID protocol, and the “What to bring” list for the camp does not mention face masks.
NS Immune exemption Campers’ websites state that campers usually need immunity to many illnesses according to state health department standards, but parents who choose not to immunize their children are “responsible for the camp.” You also have the option of signing a statement free from. For exposure to infectious diseases. “
One mother, Brook Taylor Jensen, told The Daily Beast after receiving an email from the camp informing her that her 15-year-old son’s session had been canceled because her camper and counselor were virus-positive the previous week. There are concerns. ” ..
“”I thought most were vaccinated … and from the sound of it it wasn’t.“
“I was surprised that there was an outbreak among counselors,” Jensen said. “If my son hadn’t been vaccinated, I thought most people would have been vaccinated because I wasn’t thinking of sending him. From that sound, it wasn’t.”
Jensen’s son spent three summers at The Wills, but added that he wouldn’t attend another session this year.
“He loved it and was very disappointed, but we didn’t mean to put it at risk,” she said.
The number of infections dating back to camps southwest of Asheville has continued to increase since last week when Transylvania Public Health first identified 58 cases in 14 states. Previously reported WLOS..
By Thursday afternoon, the positive case count included 47 staff and 29 campers or chaperones who were not working on campus, Ribka said.
The agency confirmed that cluster-related cases were detected in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
County public health officials began investigating after being notified of the first series of cases of campers returning home and testing positive for the virus.
“If you knew that the camp had tested all the staff,” Ribka said. The camp was also closed for a week in the aftermath of the cluster, canceling the session from July 19th to 24th, but then reopening the camp.
“They intend to thoroughly clean and quarantine sick people,” Jensen said during a week-long break, in addition to staff testing.
and statement On The Wilds website, camp officials also said they promised to “continue to take important precautions” to protect staff and campers from COVID-19.
“This summer, some campers and staff may test positive or have symptoms at various times, but as long as the Lord allows, safely serve the camper for the rest of the summer. Will be provided, “said the statement.
In another statement issued to Transylvania Public Health, faith-based camps tested and quarantined staff, notified campers who participated in the session in which the case was reported, and canceled the session on July 19-24. , “COVID-19 epidemic between campers and staff.”
“For specific details, our recommendation for all camps is to follow North Carolina’s guidance on summer camps,” said Ribka. That guidance For camps where not all are vaccinated, unvaccinated campers and staff should be quarantined for two weeks prior to arrival and submit evidence of a negative test 1-3 days prior to arrival. It is recommended. It also requires camps to socially distance people and remind them to use facial coverings.
Disease Control and Prevention Center Updated summer camp guidance In May, the camp advised that face masks, social distance, and capacity restrictions should be waived only if everyone was vaccinated. If not, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated campers wear masks indoors, in crowded outdoor environments, and during close contact activities, especially in high-risk counties.
CDC Identified Transylvania County is one of the counties working on “high” levels of infection, as more infectious Delta variants are weeping across the country.
At least since last summer, Transylvania County has only two other clusters of similar size. One started in August last year, dating back to nursing homes, and the other was more than 80 rashes at Brevard University this spring, Ribka said. ..
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 50% of residents have been vaccinated at least once.
Wilds did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Thursday’s new incident.
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