Two separate youth church camps in Texas are coming under fire from parents for neglecting to enforce social distancing. Parents say the camps, both located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, assured them that all precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had been taken. However, pictures on social media appear to show this wasn’t the case. Now, kids who attended church camp are testing positive for COVID-19, and their parents are demanding accountability from the organizers.
Church-Going Parents Conflicted
Like many mothers, Stephanie Brady was conflicted about whether to send her child to Keystone Church’s summer camp this year. Her 17-year-old daughter had attended camp for the previous five years, she told NBC 5 news, and was especially excited this year for a return to normalcy during the pandemic.
After speaking with church leaders and reading their proposed guidelines, Brady ultimately decided to let her daughter attend the week of July 6, secure in the knowledge that adequate precautions were in place.
Since cell phones were not permitted at the camp, Brady turned to social media to see how things were going while her daughter attended. What she saw left her disturbed and worried for her child’s safety.
“I saw the photos come through, no masks, sometimes masks, and it just looked really unnerving to see this happen,” she said.
Concerned, Brady reached out to the camp, who assured her that temperatures were being taken every day and that all was well.
A few days later, however, Brady received an email from the camp notifying her that a student was sent home with mild symptoms on the first day. The same student reportedly tested positive for the virus two days later.
The mother also found out that the camp held a fairly liberal definition of what constitutes a “small group.”
“We found out later from my daughter that they considered their small group 40, which was how many were in her cabin,” she told WFAA news. “So when they were with those 40 girls, they didn’t have to social distance, they didn’t have to wear masks. To me, that is not a small group.”
COVID-19 Caught at Church Camp?
Brady placed her daughter in quarantine immediately upon her return from camp. She also had her tested for the virus, which turned up a positive result.
“She was at camp for about three-and-a-half days and now we’re about three weeks invested to try to get through this to get her feeling better and test negative,” Brady said.
Local resident Krissy Askins, who lives less than a mile from the church, feels that the camp’s weak precautionary measures put the entire community at risk.
Keystone Church takes seriously the physical, spiritual and emotional health of our community and those that call…Posted by Keystone Church on Sunday, July 19, 2020
“All I’m hearing is from what my neighbors are saying on social media,” Askins told WFAA. “How Keystone is making me feel is that they are trying to protect their brand and that they don’t have much care or concern for our health and well-being.”
Brady also feels disappointed in her church. “Yes I will take some responsibility. Every day I think, ‘I really wish I would have put my foot down, I really wish I would have not sent her,'” she said. “But I really had faith that the church would do the right thing.”
Keystone Church has released a statement responding to the controversy, insisting that it “takes seriously the physical, spiritual and emotional health of our community and those that call Keystone Church their home.”
“If any camper was possibly exposed, the parents or guardians of the exposed camper were immediately notified under the guidelines of The Texas State Health Department and the CDC,” the statement read. “Keystone Church has always and will continue to pray for, invest and serve our community.”‘
Meanwhile, Brady says her daughter remains in quarantine, where her condition is poor.
“She hasn’t eaten at all. She hasn’t eaten in two days, actually,” the mother said. “There’s only so much Netflix she can watch and it’s just hard for her to stay quarantined in a room by herself.”
Not An Isolated Incident
Similar incidents have been reported just miles away at the Allaso Ranch camp in Hopkins, Texas. Like the camp in Keller, the Fellowship Church’s camp did not allow children to bring cell phones, leaving their parents to rely on social media for pictures. Again, what the camp posted seemed to indicate a lax approach toward COVID-19 prevention.
One mom, who asked to remain anonymous due to harassment she had received for speaking up, shared images from the camp’s Instagram page with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. These reportedly included pictures of kids crowded into a concert hall without masks, and lining up to eat without social distancing.
“That for me was the photo where the hair on the back of your neck stands up,” she said. “They were being escorted into the mess hall, hundreds of kids packed in with no masks.”
The woman later found out her son had bunked with a counselor who was ultimately sent home with a 100.4 fever. The camp had reportedly given no notification to parents that this had happened.
“I chose to send him, but they need to be transparent. They should have contacted everyone,” she said. “They should have emailed, called, put it out on Facebook, because these kids are just out in the community going to dance camps and sports and everything.”
Multiple parents have since spoken up on Facebook, saying their children were exposed to COVID-19 at Allaso Ranch, with many claiming that their children ended up testing positive.
In a voicemail to the anonymous mother, a pastor with Fellowship Church assured her that “We followed every procedure, actually gone above and beyond that, and anybody who may have exhibited any symptoms of anything, headache, cough, sneezing, whether it be a temperature, anything, we were on top of it.” The camp started operating on June 13 and is set to run until July 24.
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Church Camp COVID 19 — Sources
Amy Smith Blog
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Warren Throckmorton Blog
WFAA – “Community asks for transparency after kids reportedly test positive for COVID-19 following Keystone Church summer camp”
WFAA – “Parents frustrated when several kids test positive for coronavirus after summer church camp”