NY county subpoenas people who won't talk to contact tracers

Officials said suspected partygoers have hung up on investigators and deny being at the gathering possibly responsible for a cluster of coronavirus infections.

Officials in New York are threatening fines and said subpoenas are being issued to a group of partygoers to compel them to speak with health officials about a gathering that could be responsible for a cluster of coronavirus infections.

The party occurred in mid-June, according to media reports, in Clarkstown, N.Y., just north of New York City, where as many as 100 people were exposed to the outbreak.

The host held the party despite exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, county Health Commissioner Patricia Ruppert said at a Wednesday news conference. At least eight people have been infected and have refused to talk with county investigators.

Rockland County Health Commissioner Patricia Ruppert and county Executive Ed Day said subpoenas were issued to compel a group of partygoers to talk with health officials. 

Rockland County Health Commissioner Patricia Ruppert and county Executive Ed Day said subpoenas were issued to compel a group of partygoers to talk with health officials.  (Rockland County)

“My staff has been told that a person does not wish to or have to speak to my disease investigators,” she said. “They hang up. They deny being at the party, even though we have found their names from another party attending or a parent provides us with the information. Many do not answer their cell phones and do not call back.”

“This must stop,” Ruppert added. “Unfortunately, I am now forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us. Failure to comply will be costly — $2,000 per day.”

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said it's "a matter of information" and that "no one is in trouble." He also warned the county is taking the issue seriously.

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“I don’t care who you are, who you know, how much money you make, where you live, or anything along those lines,” he said. “If you get in the way of a health department investigation, I will take and we will take every step necessary to ensure that we respond appropriately, and we’re taking a serious response.”

He added that he will not have the "health of our county compromised because of ignorance, stupidity, obstinance, or anything else for that matter."