Summer Camps Won't Require Staff Get Vaccinated—While Covid Cases Spike Across Country

"I was given no information and thus no choice about whether I wanted to expose my kids to that risk"

When climate journalist Amy Westervelt agreed to host two coaches for her children's summer soccer camp in her home earlier this month, she assumed they were vaccinated for Covid-19. 

"I am on my own during the week so the idea of looking after two extra people (you have to feed them and pack them lunches too) felt like a lot, but I said okay fuck it send em over," Westervelt told me. "They arrived, perfectly nice, I made dinner, no worries."

But by the end of the week, she had made an unsettling discovery—one of the coaches was unvaccinated, had not disclosed it, and had been around her young unvaccinated children without a mask. Westervelt is still irate, she told me.

"I’m fucking pissed," she said.

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“This is really not right”

Westervelt's experience is not unique. Summer camps around the country are requiring children in attendance be vaccinated. But that requirement often doesn't extend to staff. 

While cases spike around the country, camps are allowing staff members to remain unvaccinated. An email forwarded to me by a parent of a child at The Flying Cloud Institute in Great Barrington, Massachusetts shows that while the camp is requiring staff to be transparent about their vaccination status, it has "different protocols for those couple of individuals who will not be fully vaccinated in time or are skipping out due to religious or medical reasons."

In an email to Challenger Sports Soccer Camp, the camp her children are attending, Westervelt expressed her discomfort about having the unvaccinated coach in her home.

"I gather that he has religious or political beliefs that have kept him from getting the vaccine — that’s his choice, but I was given no information and thus no choice about whether I wanted to expose my kids to that risk," Westervelt replied. "I strongly encourage you to disclose vaccine status to parents, this is really not right."

Challenger Sports administrator Lucas Zetti replied that his local affiliate was not made aware that the coach she hosted was unvaccinated—terming it a mix up. He added that there are protocols in place for when the company's staff have not had the vaccine, a point echoed by Challenger’s Regional Sales Director Kevin Comer in a follow up email to Westervelt.

“The company is not making vaccinations mandatory at this time,” Comer said. “However those that are not vaccinated and working  in our region are undergoing twice weekly tests due to the nature of their roles.”

To Westervelt, the central question isn’t what measures are in place. Rather, it has to do with the principle.

"Why would a camp for under 12 year olds be hiring unvaccinated coaches?" she said.


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“I’m concerned”

Cases at vacation camps are increasing nationwide.

At Camp Pontiac in Copake, New York 31 young children have caught the illness.

“I think that when the kids go back to school, we could see this, and I’m concerned about that,” Columbia County Health Director Jack Mabb told The New York Times.

An outbreak among staffers at Iowa’s Riverside Bible Camp sent 200 children home last week. Most were vaccinated, but reports indicate not all were—rather, the camp may have been relying on the fact that some staff members had already contracted the disease.

In June, over 80 teens and staff members at the Crossing Camp, a central Illinois Christian summer camp, caught the virus. CNN reported that only a few of them were vaccinated and that safety measures were hardly in place and generally ignored.  

The West Central Christian Service Camp in La Monte, Missouri is one of four summer camps in the region with multiple Covid cases. Pettis County Health Center Administrator JoAnn Martin, whose regional coverage includes La Monte, told the Associated Press that getting people to take the virus seriously "has been a challenge since the first case.” 

“You have people who still say it is not real," Martin said. "You have people who say it is a cold. You have people who say, ‘What is the big deal?’ You have people who say it is all a government plot.”

In League City, Texas, the Clear Creek Community Church's summer camp has seen an outbreak that started with three cases there spread to at least 150 people around the community; Pastor Bruce Wesley said in a statement on July 3 that the camp had been practicing safety protocols. 

“We are surprised and saddened by this turn of events," Wesley said. "Our hearts break for those infected with the virus.”


Anti-Vaxxer Naomi Wolf and Juneteenth


A lethal ideology

On July 17, I wrote in my column at Business Insider about the effects of the anti-vax movement. In one of the starkest examples, every person in Maryland who died of Covid in June was unvaccinated—as states around the country work to stop vaccination pushes from the federal government. 

Tennessee lawmakers have pressured the state's Department of Health to stop aiming vaccine efforts at adolescents after a right-wing pressure campaign - only 37% of the state's eligible residents are fully inoculated.

In Pennsylvania and Arizona, GOP lawmakers are fighting against schools requiring proof of vaccination - despite the fact that such mandates do not at present exist - citing over-regulation and the security of medical records as the reason for pre-emptive legislation against it.

[...]

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has already signed a ban on such mandates into law, reversing a move by Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale to require students to get the vaccine.

Though they are a minority, adherents to the lethal anti-vax belief system can have a dangerous effect on the health and safety of their community. The real world consequences of this ideology are getting harder and harder to ignore.


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