The Middletown Township Department of Health and Social Services said the cluster of approximately 20 COVID-19 cases in teenagers may be connected to a party that allegedly occurred on or about July 11.
"If you think your child may have attended such a party or participates in sports or any other group activity that may have included anyone potentially exposed, please ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days to monitor for signs and symptoms," the Middletown health department said in a statement on Wednesday. "If they become ill, they should self-isolate and contact your family physician."
Health officials encourage parents to have their child tested for COVID-19.
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All of the cases are teens between the ages of 15 and 19.
Middletown health officials said they are running into resistance while trying to track the cases.
"The Department is conducting contact tracing in an attempt to better track and narrow down the extent of the cluster we are seeing. Unfortunately, responsiveness has been less than satisfactory, with many refusing to answer our questions," the health department said.
Local leaders are also disturbed about hearing reports the teens were drinking alcohol at the party. However, their main focus is stopping the spread of the virus.
"We don't condone illegal behavior. I'm not wild about 15-year-olds drinking alcohol. So please don't break the law. Period," Governor Phil Murphy said. "But on the other hand, this isn't a witch hunt. We don't condone that, but this is a public health pursuit."
Middletown Mayor Tony Perry said the township is asking and pleading with the parents and students to cooperate. He said the teens are not trouble.
"But we want to break the back of this infection. And if we can get that contact information and get some details, we are then able to contact those who may have been exposed to the coronavirus," Perry said.
The health department said they have been in contact with some families who say they are in self-quarantine, but are waiting for more to comply.
Officials are also urging parents who host gatherings to do so in a responsible manner.
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Anyone with questions or concerns is urged to contact the health department at 732-615-2000 x2165 or email questions to email@example.com. You can also visit covid19.nj.gov for additional information and resources.