Camp COVID: Outbreaks at Summer Camps, Risks of Mask-Free Schools

Photo by Anna Samoylova on Unsplash
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment addressed COVID-19 safety for the 2021-2022 school year this week, recommending that students younger than twelve — a group that can't yet be vaccinated — wear facial coverings in classes. But the main school district in Mesa County, which has arguably the worst disease stats of any place in the state, recently announced that masks won't be required for pupils or staffers regardless of vaccination status. And at a July 21 press conference, Governor Jared Polis admitted that many places will go rogue, given their "different social license and a different balance of local ability to implement advice from the state level."

Could the virus run rampant at schools in low vaccination areas that allow kids to go unmasked? Such dangers are underscored by this week's CDPHE outbreaks report. Because of summer break, there are no schools listed among new outbreak sites. But three overnight camps that cater to children have been declared outbreaks, with two of them racking up double-digit cases amid rising metrics related to the more transmissible and dangerous Delta variant. Updated CDPHE data shows that during the week of July 4, the most recent for which info is available, 89.89 percent of infections were caused by the Delta variant.

Under its recently revised standards, the state health department names residential health-care and correctional facilities outbreaks when two or more COVID-19 cases among residents, staffers or other people connected to a specific location are confirmed within a fourteen-day period. Outbreaks are designated at other sites only after at least five confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in a fourteen-day period.

Health-care sites dominate the CDPHE's July 21 roundup; thirteen of the 22 newly named outbreaks fall under this umbrella, and twelve cater to seniors. Of the other eight outbreaks, the showiest involves the Colorado Rockies. The team was named an outbreak three days after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, thanks to eight staff cases.

But for parents who will be sending their children back to school in a few short weeks, the overnight camp outbreaks could be the most concerning. Camp Wojtyla in Boulder County has registered six attendee cases to date, while Park County's Camp IdRaHaJe is linked to five staff cases and twelve attendee cases, for a total of seventeen. And Estes Park's Student Life Group Camp at YMCA of the Rockies generated 21 cases: three among staffers, eighteen among attendees.

Two days ago, Polis said vaccinations for those under age twelve probably won't be approved by the federal government before late fall or early winter — and since the shots are expected to require a couple of weeks before achieving full efficacy, inoculated youths may not be fully protected against COVID-19 until 2022. These factors increase the chances that schools will start clogging the health department's outbreaks roster soon after the bell rings for the fall term.

Here are the 22 new active outbreaks identified by the CDPHE in its latest report. The list includes the date the outbreak became official and the type of people impacted.

1. A Mother's Haven, Healthcare, Alcohol/Drug Abuse Treatment (Inpatient), Denver County, 7/9/2021, 4 resident cases, 2 staff cases
2. Bear Creek Senior Living (23054G): July 2021, Healthcare, Combined Care, El Paso County, 7/20/2021, 3 resident cases, 2 staff cases
3. Bee Hive Homes of Pagosa Springs (23T234): July 2021, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Archuleta County, 7/15/2021, 4 resident cases, 2 staff cases
4. Camp IdRaHaJe: July 2021, Overnight Camp, Park County, 7/20/2021, 5 staff cases, 12 attendee cases
5. Camp Wojtyla, Overnight Camp, Boulder County, 7/12/2021, 6 staff cases
6. Cheyenne Mountain Center (020573): July 2021, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, El Paso County, 7/19/2021, 4 staff cases
7. Colorado Rockies: July 2021, Sports Club/Team, Professional Sports Organization, Denver County, 7/16/2021, 8 staff cases
8. Council of Governments Early Learning Center, Child Care Center, Las Animas County, 7/14/2021, 3 resident cases, 2 staff cases
9. Eben Ezer Lutheran Care Center (020170): July 2021, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Morgan County, 7/14/2021, 2 staff cases
10. Frontier Valley Assisted and Independent Living (2304B1): July 2021, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Arapahoe County, 7/19/2021, 1 resident case, 2 staff cases
11. Goose Pasture Tarn Dam Project, Construction Site, Dam, Summit County, 7/19/2021, 5 staff cases
12. Hilltop Life Adjustment Program (23Q649): July 2021, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Mesa County, 7/15/2021, 4 staff cases
13. Lemay Avenue Health & Rehabilitation (020326): July 2021, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Larimer County, 7/14/2021, 2 staff cases
14. Morning Star Community Church, Religious Facility, Larimer County, 7/20/2021, 1 staff case, 5 attendee cases
15. Once Upon a Childcare, Child Care Center, El Paso County, 7/13/2021, 2 staff cases, 8 attendee cases
16. PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic, Healthcare, Outpatient, VA Clinic, El Paso County, 7/12/2021, 5 staff cases
17. Prairie Creeks Living Center (23041O), Healthcare, Assisted Living, Adams County, 7/16/2021, 2 resident cases, 3 staff cases
18. Raising Daisies: July 2021, Child Care Center, Home Daycare, Larimer County, 7/19/2021, 2 staff cases, 3 attendee cases
19. Student Life Group Camp at YMCA of the Rockies — Estes Park, Overnight Camp, Larimer County, 7/15/2021, 3 staff cases, 18 attendee cases
20. The Oaks Assisted Living (231133): May 2021, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Mesa County, 5/21/2021, 1 resident case, 1 staff case
21. The Pavilion at Villa Pueblo (020640): July 2021, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Pueblo County, 7/15/2021, 2 staff cases
22. The Retreat at Harbor Cove (23114D): July 2021, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Mesa County, 7/15/2021, 4 staff cases
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts