Local News

11 COVID cases connected to Clayton church camp, at least 1 vaccinated camper tests positive

Posted July 31, 2021 12:44 p.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2021 4:46 p.m. EDT

— Some churchgoers are being asked to skip service on Sunday after a COVID-19 outbreak connected to a Christian church camp for Clayton middle and high schoolers left at least 11 testing positive for the virus.

All 70 of the middle and high schoolers that traveled to Student Life Camp last week were asked to be tested for COVID-19. Before returning to church, students and staff are being asked to quarantine and get tested.

"As the situation progresses, we are preparing for additional positive tests in the coming days," wrote Andre Rusch, lead pastor at the Church at Clayton Crossings.

Parents of the campers say that there were many students who went to the camp that were vaccinated. At least one of the campers who tested positive was vaccinated, according to a parent who reached out to WRAL anonymously.

All cases of the virus were confirmed after students returned home. Only one student was symptomatic, Rusch said.

Parents told WRAL news anonymously that they were required to sign a form before arriving to camp that said their child was not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Photos sent to WRAL News of a bus ride to the church camp show dozens of campers sitting together unmasked.

More photos of the summer camp posted to Clayton Crossings' student ministry page show hundreds of students packed together in a room singing.

Social media posts from Student Life Camp say that the camp will continue next week and host more church groups.

Two weeks before the camp, two staff members at The Church at Clayton Crossings tested positive for COVID-19. Church officials said they conducted contact tracing, and those who were exposed to the virus were asked to quarantine.

On Friday, the Transylvania County Health Department announced that 75 coronavirus cases across 17 states were linked to the Wilds Christian Camp in Brevard.

The Associated Press reports dozens of COVID-19 outbreaks have been tied to church camps across the South and Midwest, where vaccination rates are lower. State data shows there is "significant spread" of coronavirus in Johnston County, where less than 40% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Health officials say summer camp outbreaks could be a "precursor" to what happens when students return to the classroom in the fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended last week that students wear masks in areas of the country where coronavirus cases are surging.

The church had planned to host a Vacation Bible School at their church next week. Rusch said they are canceling the event "out of an abundance of caution."

Student ministries were canceled until Aug. 11, according to an announcement on The Church at Clayton Crossings' Facebook page.

Rusch said they recommend face masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing at their services. Masks are not required at churches, he said.

"We love our church and we love our community," Rusch said. "We are continuing to do our part in limiting our church family and our community from the spread of COVID-19."

WRAL News has reached out to Student Life Camp in Tenessee to see if there were any other additional COVID-19 cases, but has not yet heard back.

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