COVID outbreak at Illinois summer camp fueled by unvaccinated attendees

Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) — A COVID-19 outbreak at a summer camp in Illinois is a reminder that young people are taking a risk by not getting vaccinated, health officials say.

Eighty-five teens and adult staff at a youth summer camp in central Illinois tested positive for the virus and one young adult was hospitalized, according to the Illinois Department of Health. The camp did not check the vaccination status of those who attended and did not require masks indoors.

Although everyone there was eligible for vaccination, only a handful of the people at the camp had been vaccinated.

“The majority of the 85 COVID-19 cases associated with the youth camp are among teens,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

“The perceived risk to children may seem small, but even a mild case of COVID-19 can cause long-term health issues,” Ezike said. “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.”

More than one individual at the camp attended a nearby conference, which led to 11 additional cases, according to the health department. Of those additional cases, at least 70% were unvaccinated.

According to state guidance on operating youth day camps and overnight camps, “everyone aged 12 years and older is recommended to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to keep from getting and spreading COVID-19.”

Illinois is slightly ahead of the national average for vaccinations. As of Monday, 59% of residents had received at least one dose and 46% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By comparison, 54% of Americans have gotten at least one shot and 46% are fully vaccinated.

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