Coronavirus cases from North Georgia youth camp outbreak rising

Georgia Public Health Department: About 85 positive cases connected to Lake Burton camp in Rabun County
About 85 positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among children and staff attending YMCA Camp High Harbour.

About 85 positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among children and staff attending YMCA Camp High Harbour.

The number of children and counselors who have tested positive for the coronavirus disease after attending a YMCA overnight camp at Lake Burton has jumped to about 85, up from at least 30 earlier this month, the Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed.

That represents about 18% of the 362 campers, ages 7-14, and 118 staff members, ages 16-22, at the Rabun County site. State health officials said they were not aware of any hospitalizations or fatalities stemming from the outbreak.

» MORE: YMCA campers' COVID-19 cases rise

The YMCA of Metro Atlanta closed Camp High Harbour last month after learning one of the counselors there tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. All counselors and campers there had passed mandatory safety screenings, the YMCA said.

The YMCA told state health officials they followed summer camp requirements in Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order concerning the pandemic, the Georgia Department of Public Health said.

As of Friday afternoon, 111,211 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,965 have died from the disease in Georgia, according to state Public Health Department data. The total number of people hospitalized for the disease on Friday reached 2,443, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

Georgia is planning to reactivate a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients built in the Georgia World Congress Center to cope with a sharp increase of severe cases of COVID-19.

» RELATED: Georgia to reactivate makeshift hospital at Atlanta convention center

Three parents whose sons tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the camp said their children had few or no symptoms. Charlie Wingfield, 11, of Buckhead is among those campers.

“It was not too much of a shock for me when I first heard that I got COVID because the friend that I went with and was sleeping right next to got COVID,” he said. “I have just been quarantined in my basement. I have been sleeping a lot later. That is really the only symptom I got. Occasionally, a little headache, but not anything else really.”

Charlie’s father, Kyle Wingfield, criticized how the YMCA has responded to the outbreak.

“The lead counselor from our son’s cabin went to go to be with those kids as a kind of fill-in counselor (for the first counselor who got sick), which obviously exposed him to them,” said Wingfield, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion columnist who leads a nonprofit think tank. “And then that counselor came back and slept in our son’s cabin each night.”

“That seems to have been a huge mistake, really expanding the exposure rather than mitigating it. And that is what really got us angry, frankly, about what had gone on,” Wingfield said. “At this point, we are having to ask our son these questions and find them out. There was no communication from the YMCA to this effect.”

The YMCA said it has sent four emails to parents since June 24.

“It is our understanding that campers and counselors exposed to a counselor who tested positive for COVID-19 were isolated until they were picked up from camp,” the YMCA said. “It is also our understanding that these campers and counselors did not access any camp facilities other than their lodging.”

After learning of the outbreak at its Lake Burton site, the YMCA closed a related camp it operates at Lake Allatoona. A rumor circulated about a child there testing positive for COVID-19. But a state public health official said his agency does not have a positive test result for that person, so: “It is not confirmed.”

“We do not have an outbreak at this camp,” said Logan Boss, a spokesman for the state Public Health Department’s Northwest Health District.