Oh, Missouri: Summer camp virus outbreak raises safety questions

Looks like I picked the wrong week to send my 5 daughters to summer camp.

They’re over that now but Missouri leaders knew the risk of convening thousands of kids at summer camps across the state during a pandemic, the state’s top health official said, and insisted that camp organizers have plans in place to keep an outbreak from happening.

The outbreak happened anyway.

An overnight summer camp in rural southwestern Missouri has seen scores of campers, counselors and staff infected with the coronavirus, the local health department revealed this week, raising questions about the ability to keep kids safe at what is a rite of childhood for many.

Missouri is one of several states to report outbreaks at summer camps. The Kanakuk camp near Branson ended up sending its teenage campers home. On Friday, the local health department announced 49 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus at the camp. By Monday, the number had jumped to 82.

Some states, like Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, closed summer camps this year, and many camps elsewhere have voluntarily canceled programs. But other camps are plowing ahead, hoping that precautions like social distancing, masks and requiring children to quarantine before coming to camp will quell the risk. Other states where outbreaks have been reported have included Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.