'Do not send your child to camp with sickness': Summer camp COVID-19 clusters in Kansas infect youths and staff
Public health officials continue to identify coronavirus outbreaks infecting youths and staff members at summer camps in Kansas and beyond.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported 11 active clusters at camps as of Wednesday, with a combined 130 connected cases of COVID-19.
The four active outbreaks identified by the KDHE were all at church camps.
- AGK Ministries camp at Wheat State Retreat Center June 21-25 in Augusta, with 37 cases in the past two weeks.
- A Missouri church camp at Southwest Baptist University has had 14 cases among Kansans in the past two weeks.
- An Illinois church camp at Lake Williamson Christian Center has had 11 cases among Kansans in the past two weeks.
- A day camp at Westside Family Church in Lenexa has had five cases within the past two weeks.
Kristi Zears, a KDHE spokesperson, said the camp cases include both adults and youths and "we are still learning about vaccination status of those affected."
Campers should be safe if they’re vaccinated and do mostly outdoor activities, Amanda Cackler, director of quality and safety at The University of Kansas Health System, said last month. Unvaccinated people should still wear a mask.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance for operating summer youth camps includes vaccinating everyone 12 years and older. Masks and social distancing aren't necessary for campers and staff who are fully vaccinated.
However, no vaccine is approved for children younger than 12.
Zears said the KDHE is offering free testing resources to summer camps, day care programs and summer school. Organizers can reach out for assistance, and more information is available online at www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/292/Schools-Summer-Camp-Testing.
"Families with children attending camps should vaccinate children if they’re 12+, keep children home if ill, follow quarantine guidance if exposed, wear masks if unvaccinated and practice good hygiene," Zears said.
The outbreaks of COVID-19 coincide with the emergence of the highly-contagious Delta variant as the dominant coronavirus strain in Kansas.
The AGK Ministry camp's case count has ballooned since it was first publicly identified last week with 13 cases.
The Maize-based religious organization said in a July 8 Facebook post that it had "many reports of adults and students testing positive" since the Middle School Camp ended. Superintendent and pastor Terry Yancey said the staff followed preventative guidance from the Butler County Health Department.
"Please continue to pray with us for those ill, suffering, and those inconvenienced by multiple cases of the COVID virus in their local church," he said. "We pray for personal and global relief. Meanwhile, we will try to keep following the example of the apostle Paul. He urged a distraught jailer — overwhelmed by a passing catastrophic event — to turn his life completely over to Jesus."
The local health department has urged attendees to get tested.
The July 7 KDHE report also included three other camps that are no longer on the agency's public list of exposure locations.
In Topeka, the Christ the King summer camp had nine cases; in Overland Park, the Moana Camp had five cases; and in Johnson County, there had been seven cases connected to the West Central Christian Service Camp in Missouri.
West Central Camp had canceled the last week of June because of a staffing shortage due to multiple COVID-19 infections, including the camp nurse, according to a Facebook post. The camp reopened last week with several precautions, including providing masks and hand sanitizer.
"We also want to remind everyone that we live in a world with sickness and want to be safe and free from that sickness," camp organizers said. "Please do not send your child to camp with sickness."