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New Jersey COVID-19 Cluster Linked To High School House Party, Gov. Murphy Says Teens Aren't Cooperating With Tracers

MIDDLETOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- There are major coronavirus concerns in New Jersey after hundreds of people were potentially exposed to the virus at a huge house party in Middletown.

The news of the party and the COVID-19 cluster is not sitting well with some who live in the community.

"It's just ridiculous," said one woman who did not want to be identified. "I'm shocked, I'm disappointed, I'm frustrated."

"It's really unsettling," another woman said. "Now this could just set that whole thing off again."

"It's pretty scary," Middletown resident Anthony Ranaldi said. "They are injuring everybody else's health."


Authorities say that party, where there was alleged underage drinking, took place on West Front Street on July 11.

At least 20 young adults between the ages of 15-19 contracted the virus either while there or from someone who was there.

One woman told CBS2's Cory James she's seen similar gatherings.

"It was a couple weeks ago and there were adults, there were kids. It seemed like some sort of celebration. Minimal masks, I think everyone was outdoors, but that doesn't mean it's OK," she said.

Middleton High School South posted a statement saying in part, "Reports of multiple COVID-19 cases are among the high school age population."

Some of those kids are classmates with 17-year-old Will Doyle.

"It's honestly pretty crazy," he said. "Be smart and, like, you know this is a problem."

Some of those teens, according to Gov. Phil Murphy, are not cooperating with contact tracers and that, he says, is a problem. He believes they're choosing not to share information to help contact tracers out of fear they'll be punished for illegal drinking.

"This isn't a witch hunt. You know, we don't condone that, but this is a public health pursuit," the governor said. "We don't condone illegal behavior, but on the other hand, these folks are trying to do good and trying to contain a public health crisis."

A few weeks ago in New York, officials in Rockland County issued subpoenas that were punishable with up to $2,000 fines each day to people who refused to give out key information after a party that led to an outbreak.

It is unclear if the city of Middletown will do that.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

In the meantime, the mayor of Middletown is pleading with young adults to come forward, telling them they just want information so they can save lives.

"We're not looking to get anyone into trouble. No one is getting into trouble, and that's the common misconception with this contact tracing, is that this isn't about getting people, you know, some type of, you know, summons or anything like that. It's about the health and wellness of our residents," Mayor Tony Perry said. "Telling them that may in the end save someone's life."

Something one new mom is hoping they will do.

"I know people that have died, everyone knows people that have died. What do we have to do to maintain this?" she said.

The health department says if your child attended that party or specifically plays sports or any type of group activity, they are asking you to please make sure your teen stays quarantined for at least 14 days to monitor them for signs of symptoms.

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