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St. Petersburg summer camp closed after positive COVID-19 tests

It’s the second time in two weeks city officials have had to close camp at a recreation center because of the coronavirus.
Summer camp at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center is shut down for three days because two campers tested positive for COVID-19.
Summer camp at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center is shut down for three days because two campers tested positive for COVID-19. [ City of St. Petersburg ]
Published Jun. 9, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Summer camp at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center is shut down for three days because two campers tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s the second time in two weeks city officials have had to close camp at a recreation center because of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, officials learned that the father of two Walter Fuller campers tested positive for the virus. That was the last day the children attended camp, which remained open Friday and Monday.

City officials learned Monday that the children had also tested positive, prompting the recreation center to close Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It will reopen for camp on Friday, after the facility can sit empty for 48 hours — about the amount of time the virus can live on hard surfaces — and then undergo a deep clean.

“We know families need childcare, we don’t want to disrupt that service just because," said Leisure Services Administrator Mike Jefferis. "But we also want to make sure, out of an abundance of caution and so we’re as safe as we can possibly be.”

Last week, camp at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center was shut down for three days after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19.

The recreation center — at Wildwood Park just west of the Jordan Park apartments — and camp, by now, are both back up and running. The positive employee, who city officials did not identify, is a supervisor at the recreation center. She did not come into contact with any campers, Jefferis said, and no children were told to isolate due to possible exposure to the virus.

The supervisor received a positive test on Monday, June 1, after she had arrived to work, Jefferis said. Because of the social distancing guidelines and cleaning regimen in place, and because the employee wore a mask, city and state officials felt it was safe to keep the recreation center open on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, he said city employees contacted every camper’s family by phone or in person on Tuesday to alert them of the positive case.

The decision to close that recreation center came last Tuesday, after contact tracers raised some questions about other staff members who may have been exposed. They suggested the city close the recreation center until the following Monday.

Two additional recreation center employees remain isolated due to potential exposure to the virus.

Another camp employee, at Roberts Recreation Center, on 50th Avenue N near Harris Park, also tested positive. The teen employee’s mother, who is a healthcare worker, was tested regularly, Jefferis said. Both he and his mother were asymptomatic.

The teen employee was last at the recreation center on May 28, Jefferis said, four days before camp began there. Employees did a deep clean of the facility before camp began, but because of distancing rules, didn’t feel the need to close camp or isolate any other employees.

With COVID-19 concerns still pervasive, Jefferis said, camps are being run differently this summer.

City employees — who used to be able to pop into recreation centers to use the restroom — and parents are not allowed inside. They take the temperature of all visitors, and anyone entering the recreation centers, including children, are subject to a questionnaire about travel and how they’re feeling.

Jefferis also said he’s significantly reduced the number of kids who attend camps. Normally, the ratio of campers to counselors is 25 to one. Right now it’s nine to one. That means only 800 kids are in city-run summer campers, instead of nearly 3,000.

“We’re looking for ways to keep the group as small as possible, so that if we do have an exposure, we can mitigate that and limit that as quickly as we can,” he said.

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