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Day camps are breeding grounds for COVID-19 virus: epidemiologist

Summary

Public health says 27 children and staff of a day camp in Boucherville, Que., tested positive for COVID-19.


An epidemiological investigation has not determined how many secondary infections can be traced back to the day camp.


Charlot l’Escargot was not the only Montreal-area day camp to report positive cases of COVID-19.


MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – A recent COVID-19 outbreak at a Quebec day camp has not surprised one of the province’s epidemiologists, who contends camps are a natural hotbed for the virus.

Public health authorities say 27 children and staff members of Charlot l’Escargot day camp in Boucherville, Que., tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos believes such an outbreak was only a matter of time.

“It’s just because of the nature of how they operate,” said Labos of day camps. “You have a bunch of people from different households coming together in one space, in close contact with each other – eating, living, sleeping together, doing activities together.

“If the virus does get introduced into that little ecosystem, it’s going to spread more quickly.”

The outbreak at Charlot l’Escargot, on Montreal’s south shore, began on July 20 after a counsellor and multiple children tested positive. Public health then stepped in, forcing anyone who was at the camp between July 13 and July 21 to enter isolation.

A subsequent epidemiological investigation has yet to determine how many secondary infections can be traced back to the day camp.

“One person can infect many other people,” said Labos. “And if you start getting into super spreader events, and you were positive and went to a rock concert and you infected 12 people, well those 12 people can go and infect another five to 10 people.”

In a statement, the Montérégie Public Health Department said they are “monitoring the situation closely” with the help of the day camp’s management.

“All those identified as potentially at risk were invited to be screened, and public health contacted parents and staff to advise them of the action to be taken under the circumstances,” they said.

Charlot l’Escargot was not the only Montreal-area day camp to report positive cases of COVID-19.

There was at least one case linked to a hockey camp in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood. And two siblings who contracted the virus attended two different day camps in Gatineau, Que.

Meanwhile hundreds of other camps in the province continue to operate without any outbreaks.

Labos does not believe it was a mistake to reopen day camps, despite the most recent cases. Though he says camps should screen people before they enter the grounds.

“If someone starts to develop symptoms, can you test them quickly and can you isolate them quickly,” he said. “If you can do that, you’ve probably gone a long way in mitigating the risk and making sure that if someone tests positive, they’re not going to infect 10 other people and cause a mini outbreak.”

Management at Charlot l’Escargot did not respond to a request for comment. The camp is expected to remain closed until Aug. 7.