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Delta variant confirmed in samples from church camp outbreak, Galveston Co. health officials say

Of the 74 cases reported to date, six are breakthrough cases, health officials said.

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas — The Delta variant has been identified in three test samples tied to a church camp COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Galveston County Health District.

Health officials said additional samples are being tested.

More than 450 adults and youth in grades 6 through 12 from the area attended the camp, which was organized by Clear Creek Community Church in League City late last month. It was at a campsite in Giddings, Texas. 

The health district said it was notified of the first positive COVID-19 case tied to the camp on June 27.

On Tuesday, the Galveston County Health District confirmed there were 57 cases.

Of the 57 cases reported to date, six are breakthrough cases, health officials said. Breakthrough cases are defined as someone becoming infected more than 14 days after their second COVID-19 vaccination.

On Wednesday, that number of total confirmed cases increased to 74 with no hospitalizations at this time.

”Knowing that there are only six people that got COVID after getting vaccinated, I think still is a very small percentage,” said Annamarie Davidson, M.D., with Memorial Hermann Hospital. “And good and encouraging that the vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Davidson said she would not discourage parents from sending their kids to summer camp, even if the kids have not been vaccinated. She says it is an individual choice, and parents should weigh the benefits.

“Camps can really offer things that are fun and helpful for kids, emotionally and mentally,” Davidson said. “And also take into account the camp and all the different precautions and safety measures that they have in place. I think camps are doing a really nice job of trying to mitigate risk and spread.”

The health district said 47 cases are in youth and adults 12 years and older while 10 are in youth younger than 12 years.

In addition to these 57 confirmed cases, more than 90 people – including non-Galveston County residents – have self-reported to the health district that they have tested positive.

“The Delta variant is highly contagious, more so than other strains. And people who are unvaccinated are at most risk,” said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County local health authority.

“I cannot stress enough – there is no reason to not get vaccinated if you’re old enough. There are plenty of vaccines available,” Keiser continued. “In this outbreak, at least as of now, it appears most of the people who have tested positive are old enough to be vaccinated. These vaccines are safe, effective and they offer the best protection against COVID-19 to you, your family and your community.”

RELATED: Church camp COVID-19 outbreak should serve as 'cautionary tale,' Galveston Co. health official says

The student ministry camp was for 6th to 12th graders, which means most are eligible to be vaccinated. However, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows most kids in that age group aren't vaccinated.

According to the CDC, one in five kids between 12 and 15 years old are fully vaccinated. In the 16 to 17-year-old age group, approximately one in three have gotten the shots.

The Galveston County Health District is working with the church to trace any more contacts and to offer guidance.  

The youth group did not leave the campground during their stay.  They did have contact with counselors from their church. No other campers were on site.

Clear Creek Community Church released the following message on social media over the weekend:

Dear Church Family,

Services at CCCC campuses are canceled for Sunday July 4 and Wednesday July 7 due to a significant number of people testing positive for COVID-19 after returning from camp.

Our recent Student Ministry Camp was a wonderful experience with many of our students placing their faith in Jesus and growing in their faith. More than 400 people participated in our Camp Creek (6th grade – 12th grade) last week, the reports are enthusiastically positive.

Unfortunately, upon return from camp, 125+ campers and adults reported to us that they tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, hundreds more were exposed to COVID-19 at camp. And hundreds of others were likely exposed when infected people returned home from camp. We seek to remain in contact with those impacted. If you, or someone in your family, begins to have symptoms, please seek medical attention immediately.

In cooperation with the Galveston County Health District, we decided to cancel services and to issue a press release. We anticipate that services will resume Sunday, July 11.

From the beginning of the pandemic, we have sought to love our neighbors by practicing strict safety protocols. We are surprised and saddened by this turn of events. Our hearts break for those infected with the virus. Please pray for a speedy and complete recovery for all of those affected.

Grace and Peace,

Bruce Wesley

Paul Biles, director of the camp, released the following statement:

"After the time at camp, some of those who attended tested positive for COVID-19. Since being informed, we have been in contact with their leadership and continue to support them. Clear Creek Community Church campers were the only campers on-site during this time.

"Like many camps in Texas, we are adhering to the state guidelines and working alongside our church partners to minimize the risk of any illness in the camp environment. Tejas has also been in contact with local officials and the local emergency management office, but no action has been required. Tejas continues to monitor its staff’s health and will continue to employ testing and safety procedures consistent with those set forth by the state and CDC recommendations."

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