More than 100 people infected with COVID-19 during overnight summer retreat in SE Wisconsin

Posted at 2:26 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 16:06:54-04

WISCONSIN — A Wisconsin summer retreat for high school boys led to more than 100 students and staff testing positive for COVID-19, according to a CDC report.

From July 2 until Aug. 11, more than 116 high school boys and staff members at the retreat were infected or likely infected with the coronavirus. The Department of Health Services said in a press conference Thursday that the camp is located in southeastern Wisconsin. The CDC report did not identify the camp.

According to the CDC, the students were from 21 different states and territories, as well as two foreign countries.

This comes even after all students and staff members who planned to attend the retreat were required to get a negative COVID-19 test within seven days of leaving for the retreat or receive a positive antibody test within three months before leaving.

Of all the students, 28 of them tested positive for having the antibodies prior to heading to the retreat.

While at the retreat, students were not required to wear face masks and were able to roam the area and mix freely. Classes were held outdoors in pavilions, with approximately 20 students in each. Those students, however, were socially distanced.

According to the CDC, on July 3, one student reported having chills, a sore throat, and a cough. He was tested for COVID-19 and received a positive result on July 5.

That student then learned that about a week after he left, a family member tested positive for COVID-19.

He was placed in a separate room, and his 11 close contacts quarantined together in a separate dorm. The 11 close contacts tested negative for COVID-19 antigens and were released from quarantine on July 7. However, their tests were not confirmed by public health officials.

From July 4 until July 7, six of the 11 close contacts began showing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as 18 other students with unknown exposure histories.

The CDC report states that those students were given masks, but contact tracing was not done and the students were not isolated.

On July 13, one of the 11 close contacts got a positive COVID-19 test result from a local clinic.

On July 15, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services was notified. They began an outbreak investigation and "instructed retreat organizers in mitigation measures such as symptom monitoring, isolation of symptomatic attendees, and quarantine of contacts, but the capacity for such measures was exceeded by the large volume of symptomatic attendees," according to the CDC report.

On July 28, the Wisconsin Department of Health visited the retreat and tested 148 of the 152 retreat attendees. Of those attendees, 116 were classified as having COVID-19 or likely having it.

By the end of the retreat, 118 students tested positive for the antibodies, meaning they had the virus at some point.

According to the CDC report, that 118 included 30 of 37 attendees with probable COVID-19, 65 of 76 with confirmed COVID-19, 16 of 23 attendees with positive antibodies before the retreat, and seven of 12 attendees without a COVID-19 diagnosis or prior antibody result.

The CDC says at least one confirmed case occurred in every dorm room.

To summarize, 78 students at the retreat tested positive for the coronavirus while there, 38 met the criteria for having COVID-19 without testing positive, and 28 had the antibodies before even leaving.

By the end of the retreat, those 28 positive antibody test results jumped to 118.

All of the students were allowed to return home over a month after arriving, on Aug. 11. The Wisconsin Department of Health and the CDC investigated the outbreak and the following is some of their discoveries:

  • Attack rates did not differ significantly among counselors and students, dormitories, or grade levels
  • The proportion of COVID-19 infections that were asymptomatic (1%) in this population was low, compared with those described in other published reports
  • COVID-19 can spread rapidly among adolescents and young adults in a congregate setting with inadequate COVID-19 mitigation measures.
  • Detectable antibodies might provide protection against new COVID-19 infections for an unknown duration of time
  • To prevent the introduction of COVID-19, mitigation plans should also include prearrival quarantine, prearrival and post-arrival testing and symptom screening, the ability to isolate and quarantine, cohorting, physical distancing, mask use, enhanced hygiene and disinfection, and maximal outdoor programming

We have reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for more information. However, you can read the full report from the CDC, here.

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