Pennsylvania coach, graduation party attendees not cooperating with COVID-19 contact tracers

PHILADELPHIA -- Officials in Pennsylvania say they are troubled by a recent lack of compliance with health guidelines put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, gave two examples during a Wednesday press briefing: a youth league sports coach who tested positive but continued coaching several games and a graduation party that had more than 100 attendees.

"Folks on our county contact tracing team shared these stories with me because of their very, very deep concern for the lack of cooperation from some individuals within our community with the contact tracing process itself and with the isolation and quarantine orders that they are being given," Arkoosh said.

According to Arkoosh, the coach admitted to the county contact tracing team to not always practicing social distancing and not always wearing a mask.

Because of this, the Office of Public Health recommended that 12 players and all three other coaches be quarantined for a 14-day period.

Arkoosh characterized the coach as partially cooperating with the contact tracing team, but not completely.

Contact tracers learned the coach attended a Fourth of July party while infected. However, Arkoosh said, the coach was unwilling to give the names of others at the party.

This meant the contact tracing team could not notify others that they may have came in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

"Non-cooperation with contact tracers can result in outbreaks that are substantial and can infect many, many, many people in our community," Arkoosh said.

While the county could not let others at the party know they should quarantine, Arkoosh said people who were at the party started hearing rumors.

The partygoers called the contact tracing team, but Arkoosh said nothing could be verified because the coach who tested positive did not give the needed information.

"That was deeply frustrating for everybody involved," Arkoosh said.

This also led to parents taking their children, who should have been in quarantine, to other sports league games.

Arkoosh also cited a large graduation party at the end of June that had more than 100 people in attendance.

She said there was no mask use or social distancing. It was identified to the Office of Public Health that attendees were sharing drinks and vape pens.

Several positive cases have been identified as possibly being infected at the party.

Arkoosh said they believe several other cases from the party, but the people who tested positive have not admitted to being at the party.

Arkoosh said they believe many others could have been exposed, but have not been able to notify them because the partygoers they are aware of did not share names.

County officials do know that those positive cases spread the virus to first responders, pool lifeguards, and other groups who have regular contact with the public.

"These are the types of activities when you see these big outbreaks in some of the other states this is how this happens. You have somebody who is a positive individual, they go to a party, they don't share with our team who was at that party, so we have no way to contact those people and tell them to quarantine. Or we have people who are just simply defying the orders to quarantine even though they know with certainty they were directly exposed with the coronavirus," Arkoosh said.

Arksoosh said the decision people are making today will manifest fully in four to six weeks, just when children are preparing to return to school.

Arksooh did not say what part of the counties were impacted by the coach, the Fourth of July party, or the graduation party.

She said the county never releases the names of positive cases, so people should who test positive should cooperate with the contact tracing team.
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