23 campers test positive for virus

HUDSON — Nearly two dozen campers at Camp Pontiac in Copake have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Columbia County Department of Health.

The department reported Tuesday afternoon that 23 campers at the overnight camp have tested positive. No positives were found among the staff.

All of the campers who tested positive are unvaccinated because they are all to young to receive the inoculation, Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said.

“The camp is pretty isolated,” Mabb said. “We don’t see this outbreak as representing any kind of issue for the community. Some of the staff do find their way out from time to time, but we look upon this as a very low risk to the Columbia County community.”

Of the positive cases at the camp only one child who was affected lives in Columbia County, Mabb said. When these positive cases are put into the state’s COVID system their cases count toward the county of residence of the individuals, so the majority will not count toward the number of cases in Columbia County.

Camp Pontiac is a traditional coed sleepaway camp for children ages seven to 16, according to their website.

“The camp has done what we consider a good job with this,” Mabb said. “They have contacted most of the parents and sent the kids home. This is a camp where the kids go for the whole summer so the good news is, it doesn’t ruin everything for the kids, they can come back once they’re through their isolation and/or quarantine period.”

Camp Pontiac could not immediately be reached for comment.

“In addition to the 23 campers we have 65 other children that were considered contacts,” Mabb said. They were sent home as well, and they can come back once they’re through the quarantine period. There were a handful of kids who were from places not close enough for their parents to drive here to get them. They are being isolated on campus so they’ll stay put until their isolation period is over.”

The Department of Health suspects the virus was brought in by a child, Mabb said. A child had been sick with COVID-like symptoms and eventually tested positive as early as July 7.

“We are going to continue to monitor the situation to see if we have any more positives,” Mabb said. “They have been very aggressive. The camp is actually owned by a couple of doctors and so they really know how to handle this, and I think they’ve done the best they can with a tough situation.”

Children going to the camp were required to get tested prior to camp, Mabb said. Masks are also suggested, but not required.

“COVID testing is not foolproof,” Mabb said. “You can test negative today and be positive tomorrow. It’s going to sneak in, if you will, among campers. They are trying to maintain social distancing the best they can. There’s a lot of activities at a camp that are difficult, and as you would suspect, younger kids are more difficult to keep apart.” Campers sleep in a congregate living situation, which becomes a good breeding ground for these things, Mabb said.

This summer there have been no other positive cases at any other camps in the county, Mabb said.

Columbia County is now considered to be at moderate risk for community transmission of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the level of community risk in the county from low risk to moderate after a growing number of new COVID-19 cases.

Last week the CDC’s county map showing the risk of COVID-19 had Columbia County considered to be low-risk and all of the counties surrounding it were considered moderate.

“We had four new cases this morning, which obviously isn’t a ton, but it’s a harbinger of what’s coming,” Mabb said. “I would project that we would end up with four, five, maybe eight cases a day as this moves through the community.”

The Department of Health on Monday also reported six new cases Monday from over the weekend. Mabb said the vaccination status of Tuesday’s positives was not known, and the departmenth is in the process of calling those individuals to find out. Of the six positives reported Monday, one was an individual who is not from the area and is going back to Florida, Mabb said. Two of the positives were people who were vaccinated, two of them were unvaccinated and one of the positives did not want to disclose their vaccination status.

One of the Department of Health’s contract nurses (of the four they had employed over this past winter and spring) has decided to leave Mabb said.

“We’re getting slammed, ironically, with Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, so it was really good that things with COVID had quieted down a little bit,” Mabb said. “We may bring back another contract nurse at some point. These are folks that the state of New York actually pays them. We had three others that were here, and we may end up bringing back one of those three that are already trained up.”

The Department of Health has reported a total of 4,292 positive COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. July is the first month this year where the number of COVID cases has increased. In Jan. 2021 the department of health reported 1,461 new cases, in Feb. they reported 359 new cases, they reported 297 new cases in March, 216 new cases April, 161 new cases in May, 20 cases in June, and as of July 20th there have been 27 new cases reported so far in the month of July.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to get a little spike, but it’s not going to be anywhere near what it was back in the winter and early spring as we were vaccinating people up, and I see that as a positive thing,” Mabb said.

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