Image of youth at Allaso Ranch, a youth summer camp in Texas that had a recent COVID-19 outbreak. Photo from Philip Jessamine’s Instagram account.

Campers test positive for COVID-19 after attending evangelical youth camp in Texas

(RNS) — Hundreds of campers may have been exposed to COVID-19 after attending a Christian camp hosted by Fellowship Church, an evangelical megachurch in Grapevine, Texas. The church’s Allaso Ranch retreat center, located near Dallas-Fort Worth, has been welcoming campers of various ages this summer since June 13. 

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that at least three campers who attended Allaso Ranch in the previous two weeks have tested positive for coronavirus, with one child hospitalized.

One parent whose daughter tested positive after attending Allaso Ranch in early July told the newspaper that she’d heard of at least 80 other campers who tested positive for the virus.

The parent also reported that more than 200 children attended the camp the week of July 5, and at least 140 came the next week.

An Instagram post from July 13 shows hundreds of maskless campers crowded together singing in Allaso Ranch’s indoor auditorium, worshipping mosh pit style. Other photos depict children close together without masks in an outdoor pool area.

“We all make calculated risks. We still have to live,” said another parent whose child contracted coronavirus at Allaso Ranch. “Everything is a calculated risk whether you go to the store or let your kid play sports. How are we going to defend not letting him go to camp when he’s playing baseball and going to work every day?”

“I’m not blaming the church for having the camp, I’m blaming myself for sending him when I knew better,” she went on to say. “But they need to take some ownership of alerting people in the community.”

Fellowship Church in Grapevine didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Texas Monthly, Camp Pine Cove, another Christian camp in Texas, has reported that as of July 6, over 100 individuals, including campers and staff, have contracted coronavirus from attending camp. As a result, four of the camp’s 10 Texas locations have been temporarily closed.  

The camp typically hosts more than 40,000 campers each year.