A group of partygoers ignored requests for help in coronavirus contact tracing. This New York county responded with subpoenas.

Health officials in one New York County issued subpoenas to eight people after they refused to cooperate in the contact tracing of the coronavirus cluster tied to a party.

It worked: All eight partygoers responded to the subpoenas, avoiding possible fines of $2,000 per day from Rockland County, the first known county in the state to resort to legal action amid this public health emergency.

The party in mid-June was hosted by someone who was sick with coronavirus at the time, Rockland County Executive Ed Day on Thursday. The host was symptomatic but held the party anyway, which included 50 to 100 young adults, Day said.

Although Day said the health department is identifiable by caller ID, he said the eight partygoers still did not answer calls. Those not cooperating could be suspicious of authority or afraid of being in trouble, he said. “We want to explain to folks we speak to that we’re not looking at being in trouble,” said Day. “We’re just looking to know where you were so we can help out other people who we don’t want to see get sick.” Rockland County Health Commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said at a Wednesday press conference that health workers tried to talk to people who tested positive after attending the party in an effort to contain the coronavirus cluster. “My staff has been told that a person does not wish to, or have to, speak to my disease investigators,” Ruppert said. “Many do not answer their cellphones and do not call back.”

In some cases, attendees had their parents answer the phone to vouch for their child’s whereabouts on the day of the party. Some partygoers are suspected to have attended other sizable parties in the area.

“Large gatherings remain an issue,” Ruppert said. “The risk of transmission of the virus is high and very real.”

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