Kids take the plunge at Camp Qwanoes’ Aqua Park. (Photo submitted)

Kids take the plunge at Camp Qwanoes’ Aqua Park. (Photo submitted)

Several campers and staff test positive for COVID-19 at B.C. kids summer camp

Crofton’s Camp Qwanoes executive director hopeful a day camp can still proceed next week

A summer camp for kids on Vancouver Island has been shut down for the week after several children and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Island Health did not go so far as to call multiple cases at Crofton’s Camp Qwanoes an “outbreak.”

“We do not comment on or confirm specific details about individual cases of COVID-19,” noted Island Health’s Andrew Leyne.

About 250 children arrived for a week-long overnight camp on Sunday, Aug. 16. Camp Qwanoes Executive Director Scott Bayley noted he became aware Saturday of one camper who was there during the week and had tested positive for COVID.

“We have held seven weeks of summer camps so far this summer, with over 2,000 campers, and this was the first time this had happened,” he elaborated. “Last week’s camp was for ages 8-11 years. We had always been most concerned about camp for this age group as they are not vaccinated. It appears that possibly more than one camper came without knowing they had COVID-19.”

Bayley added in the past few days he learned more campers from other cabins last week also tested positive. Families of each camper in the affected cabins were immediately contacted and staff members who had contact with the campers during the week were isolated.

“The process to assess our staff included administering many Point of Care Rapid Tests for COVID-19,” Bayley indicated. “Unfortunately, two of our staff from last week also tested positive. Since then some more staff also tested positive.”

In all, close to 20 campers and an undisclosed number of staff members have tested positive. All the children are recovering from mild symptoms and test results for some staff are still being awaited, according to Bayley.

“We have been in close communication with medical health officers on Vancouver Island to let them know what has been happening, to review our procedures, and to ask their opinion for how to proceed. They have been a great help. Our Island Medical Health Officer has reviewed the situation and determined that our COVID protocols are in line with Step 3 of Restart BC. They also encouraged us to still consider running a final day camp next week.

“The health and safety of all our campers and staff is always of the highest priority. Throughout the pandemic we have always sought to meet or exceed the public health guidelines. With this in mind, as an added precautionary step, we encouraged as many staff as possible to get tested. We also decided to cancel our overnight camp and day camp for this week and our final overnight camp of the summer for next week.”

Cancelling camp was an agonizing decision, Bayley conceded, with about 500 campers waiting months to come and looking forward to sharing two weeks with others to end the summer.

He’s still hoping a day camp can go ahead next week.

“There is much sadness at camp right now, ” Bayley pointed out. “There are no sounds of kids laughing and playing together. Yet, we are also very thankful for the seven weeks of camps that we were able to enjoy up to now. Counting our nine-day camps in summer 2020, we’re thankful for 16 straight summer camp weeks without COVID.”

Camp Qwanoes has been a place of summer adventure for eight-to-18-year-olds since 1966 where kids can enjoy themselves and long-lasting new friendships form.

Leyne noted Island Health’s Public Health team employs contact tracing processes to notify potential contact exposure to confirmed cases. Public notifications are only issued if there are high-risk contacts who cannot be identified. Outbreaks are declared in settings such as health facilities.

“COVID-19 is present across the Island Health region,” he added in a statement. “The best defence is immunization. Please continue with preventative measures, such as frequent hand washing, keeping two metres from people outside your household, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces and staying home when sick.”

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