Illinois Church Camp Linked to 180 COVID-19 Cases, CDC Says

Carolyn Crist

September 01, 2021

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A central Illinois church camp and men's conference in June has been linked with 180 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, according to a new CDC report published Tuesday.

The camp and conference didn't require attendees to be vaccinated, tested or masked. The high rate of transmission was likely driven by the contagious Delta variant, the CDC reported.

Contact tracers found that, as of Aug. 13, a five-day overnight summer camp and a two-day men's conference, which were both sponsored by a church, led to 180 cases. The outbreak occurred in Schuyler and Adams counties and was tied to those who attended The Crossing Camp in Rushville, according to The Chicago Tribune .

As part of the summer camp, which was held June 13-17, campers between ages 14-18 stayed in large, shared boarding facilities with 100 campers each, the CDC wrote. Campers were in frequent close contact with staff and fellow campers during indoor and outdoor activities, and they ate together in a cafeteria.

On June 16, a camper left early after reporting a fever and respiratory symptoms and later tested positive for the coronavirus.

On June 18 and 19, six of the camp staff members who eventually tested positive left the camp to attend the men's conference at a different location. They tested positive after the conference ended.

Illinois officials first reported the outbreak to the CDC on June 30. By Aug. 13, the CDC found 87 cases directly linked to the summer camp and 35 linked to the men's conference. Through contact tracing, 58 more secondary cases were identified as close contacts of the camp or conference attendees. Most of the close contacts were infected by their household members.

About 26% of the 335 campers and staff members contracted COVID-19. About 7% of the 535 conference attendees and staff tested positive.

Among the cases, 29 were in fully vaccinated people, who didn't require hospitalization. Five unvaccinated people were hospitalized. No one died.

Of the 31 samples that were genetically sequenced, 87% were the Delta variant, 10% were the Alpha variant and 3% were the Gamma variant.

The CDC said there are likely more cases because they didn't have access to the camp rosters, and not all of the attendees participated in contact tracing. As of Aug. 7, the CDC had received reports of 21 outbreaks at overnight camps in Illinois.

"This investigation underscores the impact of secondary SARS-CoV-2 transmission during large events such as camps and conferences when COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination, masking, physical distancing and screening testing, are not implemented," the CDC wrote.


CDC: "Epidemiologically Linked COVID-19 Outbreaks at a Youth Camp and Men's Conference — Illinois, June-July 2021."

The Chicago Tribune: "Illinois church camp and conference led to 180 COVID-19 cases, likely fueled by the delta variant, CDC report says."


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