Epidemiologist's Twitter Log Highlights What Keeps Happening When Schools, Camps And Daycares Reopen

by Karen Johnson
Scary Mommy/FatCamera/Getty

A few weeks ago, news broke that a YMCA camp at Lake Burton, Georgia, had a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 85 people—kids and counselors included. “Campers are all between 7-14 years old and staff between 16-22,” local news outlets reported, which is about 18% of the entire group comprised of 362 campers and 118 staff members.

Around that same time, a Christian camp in Branson, Missouri that served 13-18 year olds revealed that it had 82 positive cases. And another Christian camp—this one called Pine Cove, located in Texas—had 76.

But here’s the kicker—having a huge group of kids in close contact with each other wasn’t the only thing these camps had in common. They also, according to their websites, had taken extreme safety measures to combat COVID-19.

The YMCA touted their “careful planning and adherence to safety guidelines laid out by leading health experts and mandated by the state,” and went on to say that “a great deal of thought and planning went into the decision” to hold the camp, despite COVID-19 ravaging the country.

“In preparing for camp, we collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and the American Camp Association and followed the safety guidelines and protocols of the Executive Order from the State of Georgia,” Lauren Koontz, President and CEO of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, told local news stations.

And the Missouri camp tried too. They really did. “The camp talked about its new COVID-conscious health and safety procedures on its website, which the organization claims were reviewed by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, and that he was impressed with the plans, believing them sufficient,” The Telegraph reports.

But we’re learning that even the best-laid plans are destroyed when a highly contagious virus like this one attacks.

Stories like these, as we get closer and closer to the start of the school year, should make us prepare for the inevitable when it comes to opening schools. And that’s why epidemiologist Theresa Chapple started an eye-opening Twitter thread highlighting these stories and an endless stream of others like them that show just what happens when large groups of kids come together.

Despite having a “five part preparedness plan on their website designed by infectious disease specialists, select experts in healthcare and the camps medical director, a board-certified pediatrician” that included “stringent cleaning, sanitization, hand washing, monitoring and reasonable contact reduction protocols,” Camp Ozark in Mount Ida, Arkansas, ended up closing its door and sending all kids home anyway after positive cases began to pop up.

And camps in Miami had no choice but to cancel once Florida became the new epicenter of U.S.’s COVID-19 cases.

The list goes on. And on. Gainesville, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Pierre, South Dakota; Tarrant County, Texas … all places where camps have been forced to close and kids are returning home to their parents, infected with or exposed to the coronavirus.

Okay, maybe you’re thinking camps are camps. Schools will be different.

Well, it’s August and some schools have already begun early fall sports. And guess what? Local news outlets in Detroit reported a few days ago that “Student-athletes in three different sports at Richmond High School have tested positive for COVID-19,” forcing the district to cancel fall sports for the time being.

And over 25 kids in Ohio all tested positive for COVID-19 after taking a trip to Myrtle Beach. Many of whom had full-intentions of jumping right back in to fall sports, but now, of course cannot.

Also, in Lake Zurich, IL, 36 high school students tested positive, likely related to social gatherings and athletic camps attended in recent weeks. Now, health officials are asking all 371 student athletes and their coaches to self-quarantine for 14 days.

So we can only imagine what will happen when all the kids come back to full days and weeks of school.

Dr. Chapple goes on to include child care centers as well. Not to scare parents or make them feel guilty for dropping their kids off—parents have to work. But to inform them that they must prepare for the very likely possibility that their daycare center will be closing at some point and that their child is not immune to COVID-19, no matter how many safety measures a child care center takes.

As of a few weeks ago, Texas, one of the U.S.’s hotspots, had a confirmed 1,700 cases from childcare centers—1,200 of whom were staff members and 500 of whom were children—the Texas Health and Human Services Commission reports. And California, also ravaged by the virus, had more than 1,000 as of recent reports.

It isn’t that daycares aren’t trying. Many are following the CDC’s recommendations on hand-washing, staggering drop-off times, limiting group activities to reduce spread, and setting up “isolation” rooms or areas to place a child who becomes sick, and having adult caregivers and kids over 2 wear masks. And, most importantly, they are asking parents to keep sick children home.

But again, like summer camps, COVID-19 breaks through these protective measures and continues its spread. Like in North Carolina, where eleven children and three staffers at a Charlotte childcare center tested positive for coronavirus, forcing it to unexpectedly shut down.

Or in Oregon, where another childcare center had 20 cases, eight of whom were children.

There’s a reason Dr. Chapple put this exhaustingly long list together, and why it’s still growing. She wants us to realize and truly understand that this is what happens when people gather in groups. When adults gather in groups. When teens gather in groups. And when children gather in groups. Camps, daycare centers, and how it will be schools.

It’s admirable that schools will take such extreme measures as fitting desks with clear plastic shields, take every child’s temperature, and make masks mandatory for all teachers and students. Great. All of those efforts are appreciated. But parents need to brace for the inevitable shutdown of schools anyway, even if schools do every possible thing right. Because COVID-19 is a stubborn asshole and will find a way in.

This Twitter thread proves it.