Officials in New York’s Rockland County announced on Wednesday that they had issued subpoenas to eight people allegedly infected by the coronavirus for refusing to speak with contact tracers voluntarily.
“The health of our county” will not be “compromised because of ignorance, stupidity, or obstinance,” Ed Day, the county executive, told reporters.
“Failure to comply will be costly: $2,000 per day,” Patricia Rupert, the county’s health commissioner, added, referring to the subpoenas, according to the Hill.
Officials are using the subpoenas to compel the people to talk with the contact tracers about contracting the COVID-19 disease at a June 17 party in Clarkstown, located north of New York City, Rubert said.
She indicated that the eight people had declined interview requests to determine who else they were in contact with and prevent them from further spreading the virus.
In echoing frustrations expressed by health officials across the country, Rupert said the infected partygoers are not answering their phones or refusing to talk when contact tracers reach them.
“Unfortunately, I am now forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us,” Rupert said.
Day claimed that his colleagues do not want to get anyone in trouble.
They only want to speak to them to find out who else might have contracted the disease to keep it from spreading, he argued.
“We want people to do the right thing for their neighbors,” and voluntarily speak to health officials, Day said.
However, he said, the people’s refusal to talk had forced the county to resort to subpoenas.
Rupert said the host of the party in question had coronavirus symptoms but held the event anyway.
She told reporters:
We are not receiving the necessary cooperation when we contact those who are positive for COVID-19 or those who had been at some of these gatherings. My staff has been told that a person does not wish to or have to speak to my disease investigators. They hang up, 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.
“Many do not answer their cell phones and do not call back,” she added. “Sometimes, parents answer for their adult children and promise that they have been home consistently when they have not been. This must stop.”
According to public health officials, contact tracing is essential to stemming the COVID-19 spread. The process involves interviewing people who have contracted the deadly and highly contagious disease about who they have been around.
Health officials say the goal is to notify those people and require them to quarantine for 14 days to stem the disease’s spread.
Local news outlets claim officials in Rockland are struggling to contain a coronavirus infection cluster that began at the June 17 party.