ATLANTA (CN) — Hundreds of attendees and staff members at a Georgia sleep-away camp were infected with coronavirus in the four days before the camp was shut down, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
According to the report, 344 of the 597 children, staff members and trainees who attended the camp identified only as “Camp A” were tested and 260 tested positive for the virus.
Officials began sending campers home on June 24, three days after the camp session started, when a teen staff member tested positive for Covid-19. The camp was closed on June 27.
Of those who tested positive for the virus, 231 were aged 17 or younger.
“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 CDC report states.
Among the 136 cases with available symptom data, the report said that about a quarter of patients reported no symptoms at all.
The CDC notes that asymptomatic infections may have contributed to the undetected transmission of the virus.
The most common symptoms reported by the 100 children and staff members who said they experienced any were fever (65%), headache (61%), and sore throat (46%).
The report found that the safety measures taken by the camp to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were insufficient.
“Relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering likely contributed to transmission,” it states.
The information released by the CDC reveals that camp attendees occupied 31 cabins with an average of 15 people per cabin.
Under Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s executive orders, overnight summer camps in Georgia were allowed to open on May 31. Kemp’s guidelines said all campers and staff members were required to test negative for the virus before attending the camp.
The guidelines also emphasized rigorous sanitization schedules and social distancing.
The camp followed guidelines laid out by the governor’s office, the report said, but ignored CDC recommendations for universal mask use and increased ventilation in its buildings. Although staff were required to wear masks, campers were not.
“These findings demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons in all age groups, despite efforts by camp officials to implement most recommended strategies to prevent transmission,” the report said.
“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 Friday.
The agency said consistent use of cloth masks, frequent sanitization, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing “are critical to prevent transmission of the virus in settings involving children and are our greatest tools to prevent Covid-19.”
The report indicated that the CDC’s investigation into the outbreak is ongoing and will “further characterize specific exposures associated with infection, illness course, and any secondary transmission to household members.”