NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Summer camps saw a return this season after last year’s COVID closure. But the question remains: how safe are they?
One Dallas parent says her son became dangerously sick with COVID from an Arkansas military training camp. Now, she’s trying to figure out what happened and make sure no parent shares her pain.
Just two weeks ago, Lilah Bean White’s 14-year-old son, Jordan, attended the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet training at Camp Robinson. But the teen ended up coming home a day early with a fever of over 100 degrees and all the symptoms of COVID-19. White says she believes COVID precautions weren’t taken seriously.
White says all it took for Jordan to be enrolled in training was a signature saying he was symptom-free and hadn’t been exposed. The cadets also underwent a brief medical evaluation upon arrival, but White says a COVID test was never done. Jordan says he can’t remember any being conducted during training.
“From my knowledge,” White said, “there was none whatsoever.”
For weeks, White assumed Jordan was having fun and enjoying himself. She couldn’t contact him directly, but never heard any different from staff.
But just two days before pick up, she got a call.
“[The woman on the phone] briefly said, ‘well, Jordan’s running a low-grade fever and he wants to come home’,” White remembered.
White says she immediately knew something was wrong when she picked Jordan up. He was so ill he couldn’t speak, and his temperature was soaring above 103 degrees. The teen tested positive for COVID-19 only a few hours later.
Jordan wasn’t vaccinated when he attended training, but says he was one of the only kids masked up. White adds she had sent him to camp fully stocked with face coverings and hand sanitizer.
But Jordan says he wasn’t the only one sick.
“There was a child there with no taste or smell the very first day of training,” White says.
She adds the child appeared to still be involved in training exercises even after admitting his symptoms to other cadets.
In addition, Jordan says “everyone” was coughing and very few cadets chose to wear masks. He adds that those with fevers were pulled out of training for about 24 hours, then sent back to the group. Jordan says he himself was made to complete PT exercises and drills even after spiking a fever, and claims it took three tries to get staff to contact his mom.
“My son suffered for days without someone caring,” White said, “It’s heartbreaking.”
Jennifer Cragg, Director of Strategic Communications for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets released a statement saying,
“The safety of our cadets, their parents, and our volunteers is our highest priority. To minimize risk of COVID exposure during our summer training sessions, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps (USNSCC) follows CDC guidance and any additional restrictions from state or local authorities. We encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated. When arriving at a USNSCC training event, cadets and event staff must certify in writing that they meet several requirements including: No signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or flu-like illnesses and no known interaction with a person with COVID-19 in the previous 14 days. Any cadet or volunteer who does not meet these criteria may not participate in NSCC activities for a period of at least 14 days from the last day of symptoms, or interaction. We take COVID seriously and do all we can to prevent COVID transmission and care for anyone who becomes ill. Parents and volunteers acknowledge in writing that there is risk associated with participation in our summer training program. We continue to monitor CDC guidelines during this dynamic time.”Jennifer Cragg
The corps couldn’t answer how many cadets and staff tested positive, or how many covid tests were conducted during training.
However, emails sent to parents after their children were picked up say at least three cadets tested positive, as well as a Lieutenant.