The camp session took place in late June at a campground located outside Galveston County rented by the local Clear Creek Community Church. Over 450 adults and children between grades six and 12 attended the camp, according to a news release from the Galveston County Health District. On June 27, the GCHD received notice about the first positive COVID-19 test connected to the camp.
“Unfortunately, upon return from camp, 125+ campers and adults reported to us that they tested positive for COVID-19,” Bruce Wesley, lead pastor at Clear Creek, said in a letter to the church community. Wesley pointed out the likelihood that even more cases will eventually be tied to the outbreak through secondary cases among contacts of people who were infected at the camp. “Additionally, hundreds more were exposed to COVID-19 at camp,” he wrote. “And hundreds of others were likely exposed when infected people returned home from camp.”
Clear Creek is cooperating with local health officials as they investigate the outbreak. The church canceled services this week, set to resume on Sunday, July 11. Wesley said the church is “surprised and saddened by this turn of events” and has followed COVID-19 protocols throughout the pandemic. (According to Clear Creek, all COVID-19 restrictions, including mandatory masking, were lifted on May 9; attendees are asked to self-screen for recent symptoms or exposure prior to attending any church events.)
Wesley encouraged people to seek care if they or a family member experiences symptoms of COVID-19 and to keep those infected in their prayers. “Our hearts break for those infected with the virus,” he wrote. “Please pray for a speedy and complete recovery for all of those affected.”
The GCHD is conducting an ongoing investigation into the outbreak, including contact tracing and sample testing. So far the county has independently confirmed 57 COVID-19 cases connected to the camp and gleaned several insights about this subset of cases. For instance, six of the reported cases are breakthrough cases that occurred in people who were fully vaccinated, meaning 51 of the cases were in unvaccinated people. Of the 57 reported cases, 10 occurred in kids under age 12, while 47 cases occurred in people over 12. And according to the GCHD, as of July 6, three samples have been found to contain the highly contagious Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, which just became the predominant strain in the U.S. (More samples are being tested.)
While there is much more to be learned about this COVID-19 outbreak, so far it appears the vast majority of confirmed cases happened in unvaccinated people over age 12. And given that 10 kids under age 12 have been impacted (so far), the incident underscores how important vaccination is for teens and adults that spend time around children under 12, who do not have the benefit of vaccine protection. (It’s also a good reminder to parents of unvaccinated kids that their children should still be wearing masks in scenarios where they may be exposed to unvaccinated people.)
Outbreaks like these are a reminder for everyone about the urgency of getting vaccinated at this precarious phase in the pandemic, both to contain the spread of the Delta variant as quickly as possible and to protect those who cannot get vaccinated. “I cannot stress enough–there is no reason to not get vaccinated if you’re old enough,” said Galveston County local health authority Philip Keiser, M.D. “In this outbreak, at least as of now, it appears most of the people who have tested positive are old enough to be vaccinated. These vaccines are safe, effective, and they offer the best protection against COVID-19 to you, your family, and your community.”