COVID-19 infects dozens of campers, workers at Missouri summer camp

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ST. LOUIS — An outbreak of COVID-19 at a summer camp near Branson, Missouri, continues to spread.

As of Monday, 82 campers and workers at Camp Kanakuk have been infected. The number of infected has grown from 49 on Friday. State health officials said they were working closely with the camp.

“We’ve been very involved with our summer camps and Kanakuk in particular,” said Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health.

Williams said he will not recommend Kanakuk close the infected facility.

“School is incredibly important for young people, and we also think camps are important,” he said.

Camp Kanakuk hosts about 13,000 kids every year at several camps in southern Missouri, and 5,000 kids have already taken part.

The 82 who tested positive were at the K-2 camp. The remainder of the term has been canceled, but it’s not closed for good this summer.

“They plan to open an abbreviated session once they’ve isolated those staffers and get their tests back that are negative,” Williams said.

He said before Kanakuk opened the camp had a plan in place to keep kids safe, and if there was an outbreak, there was a plan for that as well.

Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University Medical School, sent his three children to Kanakuk for about nine years while they were growing up. He said they loved it. 

But this year he said no to any sleepover camps.

“It’s a risk when you want to go, and to have a plan that they were going to keep everyone safe it’s probably not possible,” Newland said.

He thinks most, if not all, the infected young people will survive and be fine. He worries they could infect the vulnerable, like grandparents, when they get home.

“The collateral damage that comes later … could be a bigger issue,” Newland said.

Kanakuk officials sent a letter to parents tell them only the K-2 camp was affected by COVID-19. All the other camps don’t have any problems.

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