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A Maskless Church Camp And Conference Are Linked To 180 COVID-19 Cases

Health officials in Illinois have linked nearly 200 COVID-19 cases to two events — a church camp for teens and a men's conference — and the number of people who may have been exposed may be much greater and from multiple states.

An organization held a five-day church camp for teens and a two-day men's conference in June that have since been linked to a spike in cases following research by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Monday. The CDC did not name the organization.

As of mid-August, 180 COVID-19 cases had been linked to those who attended one of those events or to someone who had close contact with an attendee, the CDC said.

A majority of those cases, 122, were attributed to attendees, with 87 people contracting COVID-19 during the camp and 35 during the conference. Most of those cases, 104, were unvaccinated people.

Only five people were hospitalized, none of whom had been vaccinated, and no deaths were reported. But officials say that more than 1,000 people across at least four states could have been exposed through the two events, the CDC said.

The report points to these cases as an example of the dangers of hosting large events with little to no safeguards in place. Attendees at both events were not required to be vaccinated, and organizers did not require participants to get tested before allowing entry, the report says.

Nearly 300 teens between the ages of 14 and 18 attended the camp after traveling together in large groups on buses. They spent the week living and dining together and mingling with other campers, according to the CDC.

It's unclear whether masks were required, but the report says that a list of items to pack for the week did not include masks. Similarly, another 500 people attended the men's conference, where masks were also not required, the CDC says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.