Growing concerns over indoor parties as COVID infects more young people

The details are still under investigation, but the outcome is raising alarms. Borough of Cresskill spokesperson Bill Maer says at least 20 teens may have tested positive for the coronavirus after a series of parties, including a prom party for Creskill High School students at the Alpine Country Club.

“They weren’t wearing masks, they weren’t appropriately social distancing, and there was probably too many individuals in one indoor space,” Maer said. “Not sanctioned by the township or the Cresskill school board […] that was the beginning of a lot of the issues.”

Borough of Cresskill’s Office of Emergency Management says the house parties in town and the lack of social distancing at them “[…] may be related to an outbreak of COVID-19 in our community.”

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli says she is concerned about the continuing increase of cases in 18 to 29 year olds. For the first three weeks of July, the percentage of cases among the age group was 24% to 33%, up from 12% in April.

“There’s this idea people who are these younger adults are less susceptible to this virus. They are just as likely to get the disease; it’s the likelihood of death that’s different. And I think that that messaging is a little bit challenging when we’re trying to get young people to behave in a way where they have to risk, not only to themselves, but to the people that they are around,” said Epidemiologist and Montclair State University professor Stephanie Silvera.

This week the state launched a campaign called “For Each Other, For Us All” to promote testing and contact tracing awareness. Persichilli says part of it will focus on younger people because of their “risky behaviors.”

“They may affect their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We need them to get tested and participate in contact tracing to protect the health of our state,” Persichilli said at Wednesday’s coronavirus press briefing.

Silvera says it’s also important to remember that some people who get the virus, including those between the ages of 18 to 29, show signs of long-term impact even after they’ve beaten the virus.

“While they might not severe illness right now due to COVID, we don’t know long term what impact that’s going to have on their respiratory system, their cardiovascular system and so on,” Silvera said.

Monday Gov. Phil Murphy highlighted the uptick in the state’s rate of transmission, which he attributes in part to indoor house parties statewide.

“I refer to the parties, among other places, in Middletown which has led to nearly 60 cases among teens, as well as those on Long Beach which led to nearly three dozen cases among lifeguards at Harvey Cedars in Surf City, and there have been other,” Murphy said. “And with the hot and humid weather that we’ve been experiencing, we know there have been many more indoor parties taking place that have not made the news. We can not be any clearer that indoor gatherings — especially large, crowded ones where social distancing isn’t practiced and face masks are not worn — they just are not safe.”

As a result, Murphy has tightened indoor gathering numbers from a 100 person maximum to 25, with the exception of weddings, funerals, memorial services, and religious and political activities.