Case number climbs following Camp Chautauqua COVID outbreak

Credit: Miami Valley Council-Boy Scouts of America

Credit: Miami Valley Council-Boy Scouts of America

Significant COVID-19 outbreaks have emerged from a church gathering held at Camp Chautauqua in Miami Twp. and a Boy Scouts camp held at Woodland Trails in Preble County.

Several other summer camps in the region are continuing as scheduled with heightened sanitation and other health and safety measures.

The number of recorded COVID-19 cases for Ohio and Kentucky residents from the recent Camp Chautauqua outbreak has jumped from 30 to 78, according to Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County Public Information Supervisor Dan Suffoletto.

Of those 78, 12 were members of churches from Montgomery County, one from a Butler County church, three from Hamilton county churches and two from Franklin County church members. Those 18 were confirmed to be unvaccinated, but information on their ages was not available, per Suffoletto.

Though there is no way to tell whether any of the cases were of the Delta variant, Suffoletto urged residents to be wary of the new strain.

“Just because the Delta variant is out there, you could be more at risk because it’s much more contagious and it could make you sicker,” he said.

Camp Chautauqua’s administration has done everything they can to follow CDC guidelines throughout this process, President and CEO Jason Harmeyer said. Although there was an initial disconnect between Camp Chautauqua’s administration and Public Health during the early stages of the outbreak, the main concern was the privacy of the campers, Harmeyer said.

“They wanted all the information,” he said. “I felt like I could get the important details needed for the safety and security of those students and actually get that out quicker, and in a more meaningful way.”

Looking back, Harmeyer said he wished his team would have been able to streamline their communications with Public Health.

“I would have from almost day one got my team as well as the Montgomery County Board of Health and really from the start collaborated (with them),” he said. “That way we could have been on the same message and speaking from the same platform.”

The work that Public Health has been doing to combat the spread of COVID-19 is very important, Harmeyer added.

“I respect and admire what Public Health officials do each day on the front lines,” he stated.

Camp Chautauqua will continue hosting events and plans to act in accordance with state guidelines, Harmeyer said.

“We want to operate within the confines of what the state of Ohio is calling prudent right now,” Harmeyer said. “This entire year up until July 1, we’ve had no cases. I’d hate to allow one week to taint the others. We will base anything we do moving forward on the science that comes out of any kind of impact between gatherings as we look back on the month of July.”

For the time being, groups planning to stay at Camp Chautauqua have chosen to provide a negative COVID test result in the three days leading up to their visit, a move that Harmeyer said he and his team support.

“In light of what we’re dealing with right now, (it) is probably a good measure,” he said.

The goal of everyone involved should be to learn from this experience, Harmeyer noted.

“The next chapter is saying, ‘How do we take care of the people that are dealing with this?’” he said. “The takeaway is we want even greater collaboration. We want even better communication. So that’s my commitment moving forward.”

At the Boy Scouts camp outbreak, at least four positive cases resulted from the gathering of almost 600 people, according to a news release from the Miami Valley Council of Boy Scouts of America. As a result, several upcoming camp sessions have been canceled, per the release.

Credit: Miami Valley Council- Boy Scouts of America

Credit: Miami Valley Council- Boy Scouts of America

“We determined that these four positive cases and their potential close contacts unfortunately inhibited our ability to safely run this camp season’s remaining sessions of Cub Scout Residents Camp,” the release says.

Four individuals who tested positive during the Preble County outbreak were confirmed to be Montgomery County residents by Suffoletto. Three of the four residents were not yet old enough to be eligible for vaccination, and the remaining individual had been vaccinated, Suffoletto said. Public Health has been in contact with these individuals, per Suffoletto.

Credit: Miami Valley Council-Boy Scouts of America

Credit: Miami Valley Council-Boy Scouts of America

Other local organizations are continuing to hold summer camps and gatherings as regularly scheduled. The Washington Twp. Rec Center is in the middle of a 10-week summer camp program and has had no confirmed COVID cases, according to Washington Twp. Communications Director Kate Trangenstein.

The rec center has implemented measures to keep their camp environments as safe as possible, including heightened sanitation tactics, decreased camp sizes and limits in staff rotation, Trangenstein said.

The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio also have adjusted operations to keep COVID out, per director of marketing and communications KayAnn Taylor Rutter. Participants are required to complete a health screening before attending any Girl Scouts summer camp, and there are also social distancing measures and increased sanitation practices in place, Rutter said.

“We have taken a very preventative approach to our summer activities,” she stated.

Public Health is encouraging all eligible candidates to get vaccinated as soon as possible. It is recommended that nonvaccinated individuals wear masks in public settings to diminish the spread of COVID-19.

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