Almost Half of People Who Did This For a Week Got COVID, CDC Study Says

You may need to rethink your whole summer plan.

For many parents, keeping kids busy during the pandemic has been a challenge for the ages. With few options for safe, COVID-proof activities—not to mention the added challenge of maintaining our own demanding work schedules—some parents have turned to summer camps for respite. But one case study released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed the chilling reality about just how safe these camps are in the COVID era. Nearly half of children that attended an overnight camp in Georgia tested positive for coronavirus after a single weeklong session.

According to the study, a total of 597 youth between the ages of six and 19 attended the camp this July. After testing 344 of the campers for coronavirus, 260 were found to be positive—meaning a shocking 76 percent of the tested group was infected. The CDC used a more conservative metric for announcing the numbers, noting that 260 positive cases out of 597 total campers represented a 44 percent rate of infection.

The researchers broke down their findings by age bracket, and determined that while there were "high attack rates among persons in all age groups," the youngest children had the highest rates of infection. Out of the total pool of campers, 51 percent of those aged six to 10 years, 44 percent of those aged 11 to 17 years, and 33 percent of those aged 18 or older became infected. Camp counselors and staff suffered the highest rates of infection: 56 percent tested positive for coronavirus by the week's end.

Notably, many of the infected children had no detectable symptoms. These asymptomatic cases pose a particular danger for the end of a sleep away camp session, when campers return to their families and resume other activities with new groups of children.

The CDC's study serves as a cautionary tale for anyone considering sleep away camp this summer. Despite the Georgia camp's best efforts to socially distance, limit group sizes, and take other recommended precautions for stopping the spread of coronavirus, the CDC concluded that the virus "spread efficiently" in such a setting. Until a vaccine is safely in hand, this is one summer activity you'd be wise to skip. And for more on how kids spread coronavirus, check out The 8 Most Likely Ways Kids Can Spread COVID at School, Experts Say.


Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more