CDC: 180 Cases of COVID-19 Linked to Illinois Church Camp, Men's Retreat

Six of the camp staffers who eventually tested positive left the camp to attend the men's conference at a different location before learning of their diagnosis

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The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced the findings of an investigation into an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that occurred following an overnight church camp and a two-day men’s conference, both of which were held by the same organization earlier this summer.

As of Aug. 13, a total of 180 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 were linked to the events, reported either among the attendees or among those who were in close contact with them after they left the events.

IDPH said on June 30 it contacted the CDC concerning the outbreaks.

One of those events was a five-day overnight church camp for individuals between the ages of 14 and 18, and the other was a two-day men’s conference.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the camp outbreak occurred at the Crossing Camp in Rushville, in central Illinois, about 70 miles southwest of Peoria.

Crossing Camp did not immediately respond to NBC's phone and email requests for comment.

Neither event required COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results before attendees arrived, and neither event encouraged attendees to wear masks while in indoor spaces, according to the report.

A total of 122 attendees were ultimately diagnosed with COVID-19. Of those, 18 cases were reported in individuals who were fully vaccinated against coronavirus, according to officials.

Among all of the cases, five individuals were hospitalized, and no deaths occurred. All of the hospitalized patients did not get vaccinated against the virus, according to officials.

Officials say that 294 campers attended the five-day youth event, and were met by 41 staff members. They were housed in large, congregant boarding facilities, with approximately 100 campers in each unit. Those participants dined in a cafeteria together and participated in indoor and outdoor small group activities.

On the second-to-last day of the camp, one camper departed after coming down with symptoms of COVID-19, and a laboratory test later confirmed the diagnosis. Six camp staff members later tested positive, and had onset of symptoms in the days after the camp ended. The six camp staffers who eventually tested positive had left camp to attend the men’s conference at a different location before learning of their diagnosis and may have further spread the virus, according to NBC News.

The CDC and IDPH say that the outbreaks are another example of why COVID vaccination is so critical in the fight against the virus. The CDC cites an outbreak in Los Angeles County, where unvaccinated residents were five times more likely to be infected with COVID, and 29 times more likely to be hospitalized from an infection than vaccinated residents were.

The departments also advise that “multiple prevention strategies” should be implemented, including vaccination and mitigations like masking, social distancing and screening testing.

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