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Two campers at Museum of Life and Science test positive for coronavirus

Posted July 20, 2020 10:34 p.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2020 12:55 p.m. EDT

— In-person summer camps at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham have been canceled until further notice after two campers tested positive for coronavirus, museum officials said.

The two are siblings who attended an on-site camp for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students last week. They were asymptomatic and had passed daily temperature checks while at camp, officials said.

The siblings were tested after they learned someone in their social circle had contracted the virus, and museum officials were notified of the positive test results Monday morning.

Anyone at the museum who was in close contact with the two campers has been notified and will be tested for the virus, officials said.

"By design, our camps don’t interact with each other. So, there were six camps here last week, [and] they were all kind of in their own little bubble," Matt Pusateri, senior director of marketing for the museum, said Tuesday. "Most campers probably had no contact whatsoever with these people. No one at the museum, as a general admissions guest or a member that was just visiting the museum probably had any contact with them."

The camps involve both indoor and outdoor elements, with the indoor portion conducted in a classroom building across the street from the museum, he said. The classrooms are used only for camps and programs and aren't generally open to the public, he said.

"Camps are very different than they would’ve been last year," he said. "They are designed that the counselors and the staff wear masks. The campers wear masks. As much as realistically possible, we keep them 6 feet apart at all times."

Pusateri noted, however, that camp staff started new camps on Monday unaware of the two siblings' positive test results.

"As just an extra level of caution that probably goes beyond what we are required to do, we decided to cancel camps this week altogether," he said. "We know that there has been very limited exposure."

Dr. Charlene Wong, a pediatrician and health policy researcher at Duke University, said research has shown that young children are less likely to infect others with coronavirus.

"We are getting more and more evidence that really shows that the virus is different in younger children than in older children," Wong said. "When we’re thinking about sending our kids to camp or sending our kids to school, it seems the age actually makes a big difference at this point."

Museum officials said a decision about when camps will reopen hasn't been made yet. Refunds will be sent to families who were registered for camps next week.

"We really feel that the opportunity for kids to socialize and learn and have fun together is still important, even right now," Pusateri said. "Unfortunately, we just can’t guarantee that something like this can’t ever happen."

Wong agreed, noting "the risk will never go to zero," despite all of the precautions the museum's camps took.

"Our camps, our schools, day care centers, they're putting into place strategies to try to reduce that risk of transmission, but it never will be zero," she said.

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