COVID-19 infects scores of campers, counselors, and 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.

At least 82 Kanakuk campers and workers have been infected, with the number of cases ballooning from 49 on Friday to 82 Monday. State health officials said they are 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.

Dr. Williams said he will not recommend Kanakuk close the infected facility. Williams said, “School is incredibly important for young people and we also think camps are important.”

Camp Kanakuk hosts about 13,000 kids every year at several camps in southern Missouri. Five thousand kids have already taken part. Kanakuk officials sent a letter to parents saying that the positive cases were all 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,” Dr. Williams said.

He said before Kanakuk opened the camp they 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,” Dr. Newland said. “To have a plan that they were going to keep everyone safe it’s probably not possible.”

He thinks most if not all the infected young people will survive and be fine, but he worries they could infect the vulnerable, like their grandparents, when they get home. Dr. Newland said, “The collateral damage that comes later … could be a bigger issue.”

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