According to a report from Georgia health officials and the CDC, the outbreak occurred in late June and was identified after a teenage staff member developed symptoms. After testing 344 participants, 260 tested positive.
Equally troubling, according to the report, was the fact that – unlike previous theories about the spread of the disease among children – young children, as well as those who spent longer in camp, seemed more likely to be infected.
The CDC report said, “The results demonstrate that Sars-CoV-2 spreads effectively in a youth-centric nighttime environment, resulting in high attack rates among people of all age groups. , despite the efforts of camp officials to implement the most recommended strategies to prevent transmission. . ”
The report added: “Asymptomatic infection was common and could contribute to undetected transmission, as previously reported. This investigation adds to the body of evidence showing that children of all ages are susceptible to Sars-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, could play an important role in transmission.
Amidst a heated debate in the UK and elsewhere over reopening schools, the events in Georgia have highlighted how little information is available on the spread of Covid in younger age groups, with the focus being put in recent months on older and more vulnerable populations.
Part of the problem, as Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage explained last month, is that many countries closed schools at the onset of the pandemic, leaving little opportunity to study if and how the virus spread. is spread in children, and studies that had been done in children and transmission were sometimes problematic.
“Household studies have generally shown that children are rarely infected and rarely transmit. But these household studies all suffer from bias, which is that they start by identifying an infected person and then test the people around them.
“Now, because children are much less likely to have serious illness or even noticeable symptoms at all, it means that an adult is more likely to be identified as the index case. And then when you go around and sample the kids, you find the kid and you assume the adult must have passed on to the kid.
“The other thing about that is that closing schools and other interactions, other actions that people have taken as part of social distancing, limit the ability of children to make contacts through which the virus could be transmitted. So we don’t see the kinds of interactions we might expect if the schools are open. ”
Hanage summed up the conundrum to the Guardian: “If community transmission is low, the cost to children of keeping schools closed is much higher than keeping them open.
“However, if community transmission is high or increasing, opening schools can only add to it. It is not known by how much … After all, the fact that children have a much less severe disease means that with heavy transmission in an elementary school, you are much more likely to detect adults than children.
Recent events in Georgia also appear to reflect the experience of Israel, where a swift and full reopening of schools has contributed to a resurgence of the virus there.
Israel was considered a success at the start of the pandemic after it imposed a strict lockdown in March that curbed the spread of the coronavirus. However, the measures were gradually relaxed as the government was concerned with limiting the financial fallout and putting parents back to work, and the children returned to school in May.
But at the end of this month, the coronavirus was spreading in classrooms and authorities closed around 100 schools before the summer recess, ordering the quarantine of thousands of students and teachers.
The hardest-hit school has been the Gymnasium Rehavia in Jerusalem, where 153 students and 25 staff have tested positive, with some criticizing the handling of the outbreak.
“At the entrance to the school, everyone gathered and entered because we were all close to each other,” said one student, Amit Sason, quoted by the Jerusalem Post.
The need for greater social distancing in schools and workplaces was underlined last month by Israel’s public health chief Siegal Sadetzki when she resigned in protest over the handling of the crisis by the government.