The Union County Health Department is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 associated with a church camp held within the county.
As of Thursday, UCHD has received preliminary reports of five Ohio residents and six Kentucky residents with COVID-19 linked to the church camp, according to UCHD Public Information Officer Jennifer Thrush.
She said Union County Health Commissioner Jason Orcena “is not comfortable” releasing the name, location or dates of the camp.
Thrush said no Union County residents have reported a positive case linked to the camp.
She said there are “potentially more states” with residents who may have become ill, but only Ohio and Kentucky have been linked to the outbreak thus far.
She noted the outbreak investigation is ongoing and the number of cases linked to the camp may change.
Thrush said the camp was “about a week-long” event held this month.
She said health department officials are currently unsure how many people attended the event.
The camp featured different worship services over the course of multiple days, Thrush said. Some in attendance stayed on-site overnight, while some attendees came and went for different services.
“The camp is reported to have had multiple days of worship and social activities,” Thrush said.
Mass gathering limitations imposed by Gov. Mike DeWine, which restrict events with 10 or more people, include religious exemptions.
Thrush said exemptions for worship are “construed fairly broadly,” meaning church camps that offer religious services are included.
She said UCHD was alerted of the outbreak when the agency “received a report from a concerned individual” on July 27.
The local health department then conducted an initial investigation before working with the Ohio Department of Health to list an outbreak within the Ohio Disease Reporting System on July 28.
Thrush said the Ohio Disease Reporting System is “essentially a giant database” that every health department in the state uses to securely upload and share data.
She said a notice of possible exposure to COVID-19 linked with the church camp was also sent to health departments across Ohio on July 28.
Thrush said the notice alerts epidemiologists from other health departments to look for connections to the church camp when conducting COVID-19 case investigations.
Epidemiologist in the ill individual’s home county are the “boots on the ground” who handle contact tracing, Thrush said. UCHD epidemiologists coordinate the broad investigation and use the uploaded data to evaluate the scope of the outbreak.
She said UCHD is working with the Ohio Department of Health to investigate cases beyond the state of Ohio.
Local epidemiologists ask for contact information from individuals in other states who may have attended the camp while conducting local investigations, Thrush said. Then, they can contact and work with health departments in those states.
“It’s all a partnership,” she said.
Thrush urged any individuals who have become ill after attending an organized gathering to contact their local health department.
“Working together, ill individuals, their household contacts, event organizers and local health departments can slow the spread in an effort to reduce the risk of secondary infections to more vulnerable individuals,” she said.
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