Bruce Wesley, lead pastor of Clear Creek Community Church, a multi-campus megachurch headquartered in League City, Texas, says he's heartbroken after more than 125 youth and adults who attended a student ministry camp tested positive for what health experts suspect is the Delta variant of COVID-19.
According to Yale Medicine, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is "a highly contagious and possibly more severe strain" of the virus. It was first identified in India in December and since and then Great Britain, infecting and killing many.
“More than 125 people reported to the church that they tested positive for COVID-19 after camp. And all who were sick came home and exposed their families to COVID. I’m aware of a number of families where everyone got sick after camp and obviously, that’s horrible. That breaks our hearts. We’ve been diligent to follow strict safety protocols for over a year as a way of loving our neighbors and loving one another,” Wesley said in a video statement posted on YouTube Sunday.
More than 400 people participated in the camp designed for youth between the sixth and 12th grades. Wesley explained in a letter to congregants that in consultation with the Galveston County Health District, the church canceled services for July 4 and again on July 7. They hope to reopen on July 11.
Dr. Phillip Keiser, Galveston County Health District authority, told KHOU that they weren't sure how many people have been infected, but because of how rapidly it has spread they suspect it might be the Delta variant.
“We’re testing it for the Delta variant, to see if that’s the cause for it spreading so rapidly among that group,” Keiser said. “Individual church members have been talking to the pastor and they think that maybe 120, 130, so we don’t have firm numbers on that yet.”
Keiser is encouraging anyone who might have been exposed to get tested and quarantine. He further noted that if the youth group is found to have been infected with the Delta variant it will be an opportunity for researchers to study it.
“We knew that there were going to be breakthroughs, but this is going to be a real opportunity for us to learn more about the Delta variant because we have a group of people who have just been exposed,” Keiser said. “If it turns out to be the Delta variant, we know when they were exposed, and we can see how well they’ve done, and see how many people are breaking through.”
Inci Yildirim, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist and vaccinologist, explained that the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been shown to spread more among the young.
“A recent study from the United Kingdom showed that children and adults under 50 were 2.5 times more likely to become infected with Delta,” Yildirim told Yale Medicine.
“As older age groups get vaccinated, those who are younger and unvaccinated will be at higher risk of getting COVID-19 with any variant, but Delta seems to be impacting younger age groups more than previous variants,” she added.