Coronavirus

Rockland County, Probing New Cluster, Uses Subpoenas as People Resist Contact Tracing

Multiple people apparently contracted COVID-19 after attending a party given by someone who knew they had symptoms

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What to Know

  • Officials are resorting to subpoenas to compel people in Rockland County to cooperate with contact tracers as they probe a new virus cluster
  • Sources tell News 4 they're aware of at least three large parties in Rockland in recent weeks; one was held by someone with COVID June 13
  • The state Department of Health is also investigating a separate possible cluster in Westchester County linked to a drive-in graduation ceremony

Health officials are investigating a new cluster of eight or more COVID-19 cases in Rockland County tied to a large party earlier this month, but they're running into trouble with contact tracing because people refuse to cooperate.

The county plans to resort to subpoenas, as it did during its measles outbreak some years ago, to compel people to work with contact tracers as they work to contain a new potential outbreak. It may mark the first time in the tri-state area that such a measure has been taken over COVID contact tracing noncompliance.

That party linked to the new potential cluster was the first of three large parties in Rockland County in the last two weeks. It was hosted June 13 by someone in New City who was sick with coronavirus at the time, sources say. County officials said Wednesday that the host knew they were symptomatic and held the party anyway.

Officials trying to contain further spread say multiple people who attended one or more of the three parties have refused to cooperate with contact tracers. That strategy, along with testing, is critical to mitigating future spread, officials say.

County officials said Thursday that after issuing eight subpoenas, all eight people were now cooperating with contact tracers.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

With all of New York state in some phase of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shifting his focus to monitoring test results on a daily basis across each region to identify potential hotspots before they emerge. Here's the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here

Source: ny.gov

Rockland County has the highest percentage of daily positive tests (1.2 percent as of Wednesday) of all seven counties in New York's Mid-Hudson region. While that is still a low number compared with the metrics seen earlier in the crisis, health officials are leery it could quickly surge upward -- especially if they can't find the emerging positive cases early and isolate them through tracing efforts.

The rolling seven-day average of positive daily tests for the Mid-Hudson region is at 1 percent, the same as the rest of the state. That seven-day average isn't available to a county level on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's website. Mid-Hudson, which is now in Phase III of the reopening process and recently resumed indoor dining, also includes Westchester County, the source of a separate new cluster.

That cluster may be linked to an infected student from Florida who attended a Horace Greeley High School drive-in graduation ceremony on June 20 in Chappaqua. Health officials ask anyone who attended that graduation ceremony to self-quarantine until July 5 -- and to answer the phone if someone from the state's contact tracing team calls.

New York has been the nation's most-impacted COVID state by far, with nearly 400,000 confirmed cases and almost 25,000 confirmed virus fatalities, though officials acknowledge both tolls are likely much higher.

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