The Civil Air Patrol shut down a youth program in Rapid City after five cadets contracted COVID-19.
The nine-day camp took COVID precautions but did not require vaccinations.
“What they were trying to do is reduce risk and instead of approaching it from a vaccination or a you-can-not-participate, they gave other options which don’t reduce the risk as effectively as a vaccine does.” said Dr. Shankar Kurra, vice president of medical affairs at Monument Health.
155 kids and adults from the Dakotas and a number of other states attended the event, where youth cadets practice military-style drills, teamwork and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.
The Civil Air Patrol made the 12 to 17-year-old cadets choose one method to mitigate against the virus while they lived at Camp Rapid, a National Guard training ground. Their options were a vaccination, a recent negative COVID test, quarantining for two weeks or showing proof of a past infection.
But a youth cadet contracted the virus on the fifth day of the event. By day eight, it spread to four other kids in his dorm and the Civil Air Patrol decided to end the camp a day early.
Col. Nick Gengler, commander of the South Dakota Civil Air Patrol, said the infected group was a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated youth but declined to share the status of the first cadet who got sick. He said the camp used quarantines to successfully prevent the virus from spreading to other dorms.
Kurra said the Civil Air Patrol did take important measures against COVID-19 but the best way to prevent the virus at group events is to mandate vaccinations.
He said vaccinated people have about a five percent chance of contracting COVID-19 but if they do, it’s unlikely they will be hospitalized or die. Plus, they have a “negligible” chance of spreading it to others.