Summer parties causing COVID-19 clusters by creating 'false sense of security'

Private parties have led to clusters of people testing positive for coronavirus in multiple states and caused concern among public health officials.
/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Summer is usually all about outdoor parties and backyard barbecues with friends and family, but the coronavirus pandemic has turned those gatherings into potential superspreader events that government officials have labeled as a source of ongoing concern.

Many states have shut down bars, restaurants and other venues as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country. But private parties have been cited by officials as the cause for clusters of cases in states like Michigan, Florida, Oregon and New Jersey.

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More than two dozen lifeguards from a pair of New Jersey beach towns have tested positive for coronavirus after they were all together at two social gatherings earlier this month, officials said.

A house party in Middletown, New Jersey, has led to at least 20 teenagers testing positive, according to the Middletown Township Department of Health and Human Services. Town health officials and Gov. Phil Murphy have urged all who attended to cooperate with contact tracers to help get everyone who attended the party to quarantine for 14 days.

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"This isn't a witch hunt," Murphy said at a press briefing last week. "This is a public health pursuit that the contact tracing corps is after."

Officials in the popular summer getaway of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are offering free testing on Monday for anyone who attended a house party last week that led to at least 13 cases. The party was attended by 30 to 50 people who work in the local restaurant industry, which led some of those businesses to temporarily close, according to The Boston Globe.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also expressed his concern over gatherings, particularly indoors, where people are close together and not wearing masks.

"It sort of surprised me, is how many times it really is just an informal get-together that is causing the spread," DeWine said at a press briefing last week. "I think there's a general tendency when we're with people we know maybe not to be as concerned."

Ohio resident Jill Parker also spoke during a virtual press conference held by DeWine about a family gathering she had at her home in South Vienna on the Fourth of July. All but three of the 14 people who attended tested positive for coronavirus.

"We got too comfortable," Parker told Gabe Gutierrez on TODAY Monday. "We had a false sense of security, and as the evening progressed, and we're swimming and we're outside and we're having fun, it just seemed so unlikely there was any danger that we really dropped our guard.

Parker warned others about getting too comfortable and failing to take precautions at gatherings.

"It's terrifying when you don't know what's going to happen, and you're sitting there with the guilt that you not only let yourself be exposed but provided a venue for others to be exposed," she said.

For those looking to throw a safe gathering this summer, experts recommend staying outdoors, wearing masks, keeping six feet of distance between you and others and, if possible, having guests bring their own food and drink to avoid people sharing.

TODAY also recommends these 14 products, from inflatable pools to a toy golf set, to have a fun and safe backyard bash.