Hundreds of Georgia campers infected with coronavirus at YMCA camp in just days, CDC report finds

RABUN COUNTY, Ga — A CDC report released Friday reveals that hundreds of campers at a north Georgia YMCA camp were infected with coronavirus in just days before the camp was shut down.

Channel 2 Action News has confirmed that the report documents COVID-19 cases at the YMCA’s Camp High Harbor on Lake Burton in Rabun County.

According to the report, of the 597 residents who attended the camp, 344 were tested and 260 tested positive for the virus. The camp was only open for four days before being shut down because of the virus, and officials followed all recommended safety protocols.

In total, the virus attacked 44% of the children, staff members and trainees who attended the camp.

The CDC said that what happened at High Harbor shows that earlier thinking that children might not be as susceptible to COVID-19 is wrong. According to the report, the age group with the most positive coronavirus tests was 6 - 10 years old.

Under Gov. Kemp’s executive orders, overnight summer camps in Georgia were allowed to open on May 31. All campers and staff members had to test negative for the coronavirus before attending

Channel 2 Action News first reported on June 24 that a teenage counselor at the camp tested positive for the virus. Camp officials started sending campers home on June 24 and shut the camp down on June 27. Camp Harbour’s second location at Lake Allatoona in Bartow County was also closed.

“The counselor... passed the mandated safety protocols and screening, inclusive of providing a negative COVID-19 test, before arriving at camp and did not exhibit any symptoms upon arrival,” officials said. “In fact, all counselors and campers attending passed all mandatory screenings.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) was notified and initiated an investigation. DPH recommended that all attendees be tested and self-quarantine, and isolate if they had a positive test result.

By July 10, 85 campers and staff members had tested positive.

"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.

The report concludes that multiple measures taken by the camp to prevent COVID-19 infections were not sufficient.

Channel 2′s Justin Gray talked to Dr. Rodger MacArthur, an infectious disease specialist with the Medical College of Georgia about the report.

MacArthur pointed out another alarming finding in the report.

“It also showed that about 75%, or 3 quarters of the young persons who got it developed symptoms,” MacArthur said.

With back-to-school fast approaching, it’s important to point out that this was an overnight camp.

“Relatively large cohorts sleeping in the same cabin and engaging in regular singing and cheering likely contributed to transmission,” officials said.

MacArthur said strict adherence to wearing a mask and social distancing is hard for kids, but the study makes it clear that those guidelines are important