72 people contract COVID-19 at Camp Zephyr in Sandia

Camp Zephyr
Posted at 6:18 PM, Jul 29, 2021

SANDIA, Texas — A summer camp excursion resulted in 72 people contracting COVID-19 at Camp Zephyr located in Sandia.

According to Emilie Prot, regional medical director for Public Health Region 11, the outbreak happened at the camp, located about 50 miles northwest of Corpus Christi.

Prot said of the 72 people exposed, 18 were camp staff members at the camp, 40 were campers, and 14 others had secondary exposure, which means a camper or staff member went home and exposed their direct family member.

Of the infected total at the camp, three people were fully vaccinated. One was a camp counselor, and two others were camp attendees.

The outbreak started on June 22, 2021.

Nathan Payne, operations director at Camp Zephyr, said two staff members started showing symptoms on that date and were tested using test kits available on site. Those results were positive.

A third staff member was found to be COVID-positive, but that person was asymptomatic, meaning they weren't showing signs of being sick.

Payne said group leaders at the camp were notified and all parents of campers were then notified. Parents were given the option of picking up their children.

The next morning, Live Oak County Public Health Director Tina Crowe was notified.

“They did exactly what they needed to once they found those positive cases," Prot said. "The main thing is to notify the local Health Department, so they worked directly with Tina Crowe and did a great, fantastic job getting that information to her."

Payne said once the Camp Zephyr staff members tested positive, the camp was shut down for about a week and a half to provide the camp's staff a chance to isolate and recover as well as establish a new baseline negative COVID-19 test to end the summer. They also are requiring their staff to wear masks.

Payne said the camp's staff is being tested every week and a COVID-19 screening has been implemented before campers come to Camp Zephyr.

They also have a daily screening done each morning where group leaders ask campers if they have any symptoms like fever.

If someone does feel sick, they are sent to the nurse to get a COVID-19 test.

According to Payne, 14 churches were attending the session with a total of 550 campers. All of the churches attending were from Texas and came from 11 counties including Nueces, Live Oak, and Jim Wells.

Prior to Camp Zephyr reopening for the 2021 activities, Payne said changes were implemented.

“Going into summer, for different groups we tried to lodge them ... with their own church as much as we could," he said. "Based on the number of people that wasn’t always possible, but for the most part, most churches were by themselves. That way if there was a positive case then we could send that whole church home, but limit exposure they had within another church or something."

Payne also said they cut back on the camp's capacity by reducing attendance to 80%.

“We want our campers to be safe," he said. "We want parents to feel their campers are safe when they come to camp. After the outbreak for sure, we put some measures into place as quickly as we could.

"COVID is here, it hasn’t gone away, we put those measures in place. We’ll continue those throughout the summer, and we’ll continue throughout the year."

Prot said they are still monitoring people who have been in close contact with those infected but says there haven’t been any positive tests since July 7.

The incubation period is set to close on Aug. 3, 2021.

Prot said for prevention purposes she recommends getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you can.

“The CDC is very worried about the delta variant in every single community including our own, so we know that it’s here," Prot said. "There’s not testing every day, you can’t just go to Walgreens and get your variant test. It’s being sampled so we do know that it is here, we just need to take precautions to slow the spread and we know what to do.”

This week Camp Zephyr is in session. The camp will end the second week of August.