Colorado County Commissioners Court met in regular session Monday, June 22 that centered on COVID-19’s impact on the county, specifically the Pine Cove Christian Summer Camp just north of Columbus. County Office of Emergency Management officials reported on Monday that the camp had nine confirmed coronavirus cases, and those infected are “in self-quarantine in an isolated area of the facilities.”
CCOEM Coordinator Charles “Chuck” Rogers said, the number of COVID-19 cases among the campers and staff “may be closer to 40”, but all but nine of those individuals have gone home. “The nine active cases we are reporting at this time are those who have tested positive and have chosen to remain self-quarantined at the facility,” Rogers said.
The first confirmed COVID-19 case in the State of Texas was reported Mar. 4, and the first confirmed case in Colorado County was reported Mar. 30.
In being proactive, the county issued a stay-at home declaration in late March. As businesses and activities were allowed to reopen at the beginning of May, case counts began a steady climb upward.
Pine Cove’s protocols don’t stop COVID-19
Jeff Olchesky, Risk Officer and Senior Director of Operations for Central Texas Pine Cove said Pine Cove had developed protocols “that exceeded what the government recommends,” including medical screenings of children on the day they were dropped off at camp and thermal scanning daily prior to dining.
Pine Cove camp hosts approximately 300 campers every one - two weeks.
The camp opened to campers Sunday, May 31. Despite the measures Olchesky said were followed at the camp, the first confirmed case at the camp was reported with a camper around the week June 8. The child was quarantined, and Olchesky stated the parent came to pick up the child “within hours” of notification.
Olchesky confirmed that the camp, specifically The Ridge campground on the campus, saw a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the end of the week two session, which ended June 15.
Silverado, Outback and The Ridge cabins were among the housing quarters with confirmed COVID-19 cases for staff and campers. These cabins housed children ranging from elementary ages to teenagers.
During the self-imposed shutdown at The Ridge, Olchesky said the cabins were quarantined and “aggressive sanitizing procedures were performed.”
Olchesky said the facility sent health/ medical surveys to parents and campers prior to their arrival, and camp staff and parents were educated about COVID-19 symptoms. He said everything was sanitized before the campers arrived for the next session, and cabins were cleaned twice daily.
Olchesky noted that the dining hall is sanitized six times a day and “completely deep cleaned” at the end of each day. Food handlers are required to wear gloves and masks at all times, and the buffet was closed.
The pools and bath rooms are sanitized twice a day. In addition to those measures, Olchesky said that Pine Cove installed over 100 sanitizing stations around the campus, and he estimated the camp’s Electro Static sprayer/mister installation between $70,000 to $100,000. Olchesky said the sprayers can “sanitize a cabin and its contents in minutes” using an ionization sanitizer that is “EPA approved to stop COVID-19.”
Olchesky stated that Pine Cove has a registered nurse on the property at all times, and a nurse practitioner or doctor has a clinic on site that is open four hours each day.
He said the facility has been “working closely” with County Health Authority Dr. Alyssa Molina and Texas Department of State Health Services.
Olchesky said that DSHS told his facility that a body temperature of 100.5 Fahrenheit should be the minimum to initiate sending the camper for further medical testing.
He then went on to state that Pine Cove set their minimum body temperature check point at 99.5 Fahrenheit.
“It’s a huge complex, and the camp that was affected has been shut down,” Rogers said.
Rogers went on to state the facility has been in close contact with county and state health authorities, and they “have gone above and beyond CDC measures to get the facility disinfected and safe.”
Pine Cove parent voices concerns
A parent of a 15-yearold male camper who tested positive for COVID-19 contacted The Citizen Monday, June 22. The parent said the boy was a resident of The Ridge cabin, and when he displayed cold/flu symptoms and a temperature of 99.9 Fahrenheit, he was told the were due to a head cold.
The parent said the boy was not immediately tested for COVID-19, but when he hurt his wrist he was transported to Columbus Community Hospital for assessment.
The parent said she felt the hospital was unaware of the boy’s previous elevated body temperature and symptoms.
The parent said the boy was tested for COVID-19 when he returned home, and received a positive result.
“I was not aware of any confirmed positive COVID-19 cases at the camp. I found out from my son that there was an outbreak,” the parent stated.
The parents said they followed up the boy’s claim by contacting Phil Baker, Vice President at Columbus Pine Cove, who confirmed that there were positive cases at the campsite. “My son said there was practically no social distancing and no masks worn by many campers and staffers. Campers and staffers stood shoulder to shoulder or in group huddles without any personal protection equipment,” the parent continued.
“It is very irresponsible for any camp to be open during this time.” When asked why the parent let the boy go to camp, the parent stated the child’s other parent signed the boy up for camp without their knowledge.
Olchesky maintains that every camper’s temperature was checked daily, and anyone displaying a temperature of 99.5 or higher was immediately quarantined.
Pine Cove remains open and states they will continue to encourage social distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitation, and masks for everyone.