N.Y. health official to subpoena partygoers after COVID-19 outbreak, says group isn't cooperating

Posted at 5:03 PM, Jul 01, 2020

Health officials in Rockland, New York, say that a group who attended a recent party sparking a localized outbreak of coronavirus cases are not cooperating with officials.

Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel told reporters on Wednesday that a subpoena will be issued in order to force the party attendees to comply with the county’s contact tracing efforts. Dr. Schnabel said that eight subpoenas in total will be issued.

Health officials hope to be able to find out who those party attendees have been in contact with amid efforts to minimize the spread of the virus.

Dr. Schnabel said that the host, who was symptomatic at the time of the party, infected seven others with the virus. All eight are in their 20s, she said.

Dr. Schnabel said that health investigators have been hung up on by infected revelers, or allegedly been lied to.

“They deny being at the party even though we have found their name from another party attendee, or a parent provides us with the information” she said. “Many do not answer their cellphones or call back. Sometimes parents answer for their adult children and promise that they have been home consistently when they have not been.

Dr. Schnabel said that large gatherings remain an issue.

"The risk for transmission of the virus is high and very real."

The failure to comply with the subpoena is “costly.”

“$2,000 a day,” Dr. Schnabel told reporters.

“These civil fines will be declared to those who ignore us or fail to comply,” Dr. Schnabel said. “This is a serious public health issue – a deadly one.”

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said that the party attendees “aren’t in trouble,” but agreed that there are serious consequences for not complying with the health commissioner’s investigation.

“If you get in the way of a health department investigation, we will take every step necessary to ensure we respond appropriately and we’re talking a serious response,” Day said.