Though some precautions were taken at the June gathering, hundreds of young people quickly became infected
A publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about novel coronavirus infections among attendees at an overnight camp in Georgia made some headlines when it was published July 31.
But during this infectious disease outbreak, when we’re hanging on every word about vaccines and Googling the names of prescription drugs we can’t spell, it’s easy for one study to get lost amid the firehose of news.
Fortunately, Dr. Tom Benzoni, an Iowa physician, regularly brings specific studies to the attention of a Register editorial writer. And these results deserve to be underlined.
The doctor’s note accompanying the link to the Georgia report: “Here’s a real world experiment.”
The findings are a troubling reminder that children of all ages are susceptible to the virus and may play an important role in transmitting it to others. Even if what happened at the camp is an aberration, that it happened at all does not build confidence for the start of the school year in Iowa and elsewhere.
From June 17 to 20, the camp held orientation for about 250 trainees and staff members. The staff were joined by 363 campers and three senior staff members on June 21. All were required to provide documentation of a recent negative coronavirus test.
The gathering, singing and cheering commenced.
Two days later, a teenage staff member left after developing chills. The teen tested positive the following day; officials started sending campers home immediately and notified the state public health department. The camp was closed on June 27.
Of the 344 campers and staff whose test results were available to researchers, 260 tested positive.
Over half of children ages 6 to 10 were infected; 44% of those ages 11 to 17 were infected; as were one-third of those ages 18 to 21. Only seven staffers were older than 22, and two of them tested positive.
Those who had spent the most time at the camp had the highest rate of infection. Some, but not all, federal recommendations for youth summer camps had been adopted.
“Measures not implemented were cloth masks for campers and opening windows and doors for increased ventilation in buildings. Cloth masks were required for staff members,” according to the CDC.
The conclusion: The virus “spread efficiently in a youth-centric overnight setting, resulting in high attack rates among persons in all age groups.”
Then those young people went home. Researchers plan to gather more information about the course of illnesses and any transmission to household members. So we await updates about that.
Of course there will be numerous other opportunities for similar studies going forward, as school districts, college dorms and other places move toward reopening. Some future studies may be focused on institutions in Iowa.
This editorial was written by the editorial board of the Des Moines Register.