Teen party blamed for COVID-19 outbreak, not helping contact tracers
MIDDLETOWN — As cases of COVID-19 grow in younger age groups, another teen party is being blamed for approximately 20 new cases.
Hampering the investigation and the ability to contain the spread has been reluctance by those at the party to cooperate with contact tracers, who might be able to warn other who may not know they've been exposed.
A house party July 11 at a home on West Front Street is being investigated by the Middletown Township Department of Health and Social Services for a cluster of approximately 20 COVID-19 cases, according to Middletown Health Director Rich DeBenedetto.
He encouraged parents who suspect that their child attended the party or who participate in sports or group activities where their children may have been exposed to someone who might have attended the party to self-quarantine for 14 days and to get tested.
"Unfortunately, responsiveness has been less than satisfactory with many refusing to answer our questions. It is imperative that everyone cooperate in this potentially serious matter as we continue to fight this virus," DeBenedetto said in a written statement.
Young adults in New Jersey are the fastest-growing group of individuals who are testing positive for the virus, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during Gov. Phil Murphy's July 13 coronavirus briefing.
Her comments came after Westfield Mayor Shelly Brindle said a graduation party was responsible for three of five new cases in the Union County town.
Middletown Mayor Tony Perry told New Jersey 101.5 that helping contact tracers is for the greater good to help the town and state reopen.
"Until we break the chain of the infection, we're not going to be able to do that. That's why we put it out to the public to please contact the Middletown Department of Health so that we can conduct some contact tracing to better track and narrow down the extent of this cluster," Perry said.
He said that since the cluster was announced there has been an improvement in responsiveness.
"This comes down to public safety and the safety of our residents and the health of our residents. It's every mayor's No. 1 priority. And I have to ensure that health and wellness of all of our residents," Perry said.
Perry said that contact tracing has been used for decades and is not something new.
"Our health department does contact tracing for a variety of different viruses that we see on a normal seasonal basis. Any type of information the public was providing us was being given to us in the strictest of confidence. Myself, my administration, none of those individuals get the specifics. It's all done confidentially," Perry said.
Conventional wisdom about COVID-19 was that it affected older individuals the worst. That continues to be true, but the percentage of cases between the ages of 18 and 29 has been on the rise from 12% in April to 22% in June, according to Persichilli. Among that age group, 53 have died.
"The notion that someone can't get sick by corona or anything else because of their age has been demonstrated not to be true," Perry said. "We all understand the severity of this disease will vary and fortunately we see that in those we've identified as being COVID positive from this cluster."
The Middletown Department of Health can be reached at 732-615-2000 x2165.
More from New Jersey 101.5: