Nearly 100 mostly unvaccinated teenagers and adults connected to a camp and conference recently held by the Illinois-based multi-campus The Crossing Church have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reiterate his call for residents to get vaccinated.
Warning of a “growing presence” of a highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant in his state by fall, Pritzker said the unvaccinated could pay the price for their complacency.
“The lessons here at home and across the world are a harbinger of what could happen here, particularly in low vaccinated areas, if we don’t see a higher uptake of the vaccine across Illinois,” Pritzker said at a news conference Monday.
“This is very real. I implore all residents: If you have friends and family on the fence, share with them the life-saving benefits of these free vaccines and encourage them to remain masked until they are fully vaccinated."
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 85 teenagers and an adult staff member tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a summer youth camp held in mid-June in central Illinois. One unvaccinated young adult was hospitalized.
A WGEM report identified the camp as The Crossing Camp held in Schuyler County from June 13 to June 17. Two persons from the camp also attended a nearby conference hosted by The Crossing Church on June 18 and June 19. An additional 11 persons tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 70% of those cases were unvaccinated, according to IDPH.
“Although all campers and staff were eligible for vaccination, IDPH is aware of only a handful of campers and staff receiving the vaccine. The camp was not checking vaccination status and masking was not required while indoors. IDPH is reminding people about the importance of vaccination, including youth, as the Delta variant and other variants continue to spread,” the agency said in a statement Monday.
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that although the "perceived risk to children may seem small," even a "mild case of COVID-19 can cause long-term health issues."
"Additionally, infected youth who may not experience severe illness can still spread the virus to others, including those who are too young to be vaccinated or those who don’t build the strong expected immune response to the vaccine," Ezike said in a statement.
The Crossing Church, which hosts approximately 10,000 worshipers weekly across multiple campuses in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Christian Post Wednesday.
But a message on Crossing Camp’s website confirmed the COVID-19 outbreak and announced that an upcoming camp for fourth and fifth graders is postponed as a result.
“Due to a recent outbreak of COVID 19 related to Student Camp June 13-17, we have made the difficult decision to postpone our 4th & 5th-grade Crossing Camp. We were so looking forward to spending time with your campers this weekend, but we believe the best way to value and love our students, difference makers, and staff is to delay camp until a safer time,” the camp said in a statement. “4th & 5th-grade camp will now be held August 12-15.”
The message did not indicate whether or not the church camp would change its current COVID-19 protocols.
The Schuyler County Health Department stated to CNN that officials worked with camp staffers "to provide guidance and mitigate the situation." The Crossing Camp also reportedly followed CDC guidelines related to "cleaning and disinfection of their facility."