COVID Outbreak at Illinois Summer Camp Linked to More Than 85 Cases

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A central Illinois summer camp was the source of a COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that a summer youth camp led to at least 85 teens and several adult staff members to test positive for the virus after a mid-June session was held with minimal COVID protocols. One unvaccinated person was also hospitalized, according to a press release.

The state health department said attendees were not required to wear masks or be vaccinated, adding that only a handful of campers and staff were vaccinated despite all being eligible.

"The majority of the 85 COVID-19 cases associated with the youth camp are among teens," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike in the statement. "The perceived risk to children may seem small, but even a mild case of COVID-19 can cause long-term health issues. Additionally, infected youth who may not experience severe illness can still spread the virus to others, including those who are too young to be vaccinated or those who don't build the strong expected immune response to the vaccine."

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The outbreak also spread off site as a couple people who attended the camp visited a nearby conference which resulted in 11 other cases — 70% of which were unvaccinated individuals. The release states that Schuyler and Adams counties, where the outbreaks occurred, have only seen 40% of their population fully vaccinated.

During a separate press conference, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the IDPH is working with the CDC to assist in the outbreak and determining whether the COVID cases involved the Delta variant. He urged the public to continue taking precautions if they aren't vaccinated and to use this outbreak as an example of the growing threats from the virus.

"The lessons here at home and across the world are a harbinger of what could happen here, particularly in low vaccinated areas, if we don't see a higher uptake of the vaccine across Illinois," he said. "This is very real. I implore all residents, if you have friends and family on the fence, share with them the life-saving benefits of these free vaccines and encourage them to remain masked until they are fully vaccinated."

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RELATED: Highly Contagious Delta Variant of COVID That Ravaged India Is Spreading in the U.S.

Cases from the Delta variant have spiked over the past month, and federal health experts expect it to become the dominant strain in the next few weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, called the Delta variant "the greatest threat in the U.S." during a June 22 White House briefing.

The variant, which was first identified in India, has spread faster than other strains and led to more hospitalizations, though it does not appear to be more deadly. Testing also shows that the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are nearly fully effective against the Delta strain, preventing infection in around 94% of fully vaccinated people.