PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. — Health authorities in Calvert County, Maryland have issued an urgent appeal to young people to answer the call if contact tracers working to track a COVID-19 outbreak attempt to make contact.
The health department is trying to track down an outbreak linked to a recent graduation party that has infected at least 24 people and put at least one person in intensive care, according to the county’s chief health official. But the problem they face is eens and young adults are not responding to calls from contact tracers, officials said.
The county’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Larry Polsky, said this situation is linked to a July 25 graduation party that happened in the Drum Point subdivision in Lusby, Maryland.
“It’s very clear that there are consequences beyond those who were at the party itself," Polsky said.
Polsky reports 15 people infected at the party along with three parents, one grandparent, a sibling and four coworkers of partygoers who also were infected. Two adults have been hospitalized, and one was being treated in an ICU.
For two weeks, contact tracers have been working the phones trying to alert anyone else who might have been in contact with party guests or others who got sick to get tested.
But Polsky said it has been challenging.
“The likelihood of someone not answering the phone seemed greater for those who are teens and young adults," Polsky said. "One of the issues that we have is that oftentimes the only phone number we have is a cell phone. If you can't [reach] the owner of that cell phone, and we hit a dead end."
Polsky is reassuring residents that contract tracing information is confidential.
“I think it's important for everyone to keep in mind that the information that we attempt to get through contact tracing, we're not using in a punitive way," he said. "We're not going out and arresting anyone, and we're not going to publish any information that is specific to that individual.”
The health department reports that in the past two weeks, 40% of all COVID-19 cases in Calvert County have occurred in those ages 15-19. More broadly, 54.4% of all COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Calvert County have been among young people ages 15 to 20.
In Maryland, "MD COVID" will appear on a mobile screen when contact tracers are calling. Otherwise, the originating number is 240-466-4488. Polsky is asking local doctors to ask patients if they have had contact with people aged 15 to 19 when screening for COVID-19.