A region that’s experienced some of the lowest rates of the virus is now bracing for a surge.
Local health officials say they know through contact tracing that some of the cases are connected, but they’re having trouble getting a hold of everyone involved and worry that there may be other clusters of cases in the region.
“I hope I don’t see secondary infections in those family members. I hope I don’t see it’s gone to the grandmothers, and grandfathers, and little brothers and sisters. And, I’m not blaming anyone when I say that, but that’s the reality,” said Sue Starkey, the health director for the Northeast Health District in Brooklyn.
According to the Northeast District Health Department, 20 teens tested positive for COVID-19 during the last week of July. The region saw just a total of 13 cases among the same age group during the previous four months combined.
Eight of the cases were identified in Woodstock, four more in Brooklyn. The health department said the other infected teens live throughout the rest of the region.
“They’re getting bored. They’re in the house and they’re stuck, and they’re teenagers. They’re rebellious and they’re getting sick of staying inside so they’re just going out and not caring,” said Brooklyn resident Samantha Sorel.
Reports of beach bonfires and overnight stays in New Hampshire have reached the local health director, but she said their investigation hasn’t gotten that specific.
“We can put together the pieces and say they started getting together. You know the economy opened, business opened, gatherings were allowed. There’s a group that went off to get together and we know there are cases in that group but we don’t know that it’s only that group,” she explained.
“They’re going to come back and spread all of those germs carelessly and not realizing how detrimental it can be to someone’s life,” said Jessica Carito, worried that she’s now more susceptible to the virus.
Starkey said they’re using contact tracing to reach those possibly exposed, but getting the teens to answer their calls has been difficult.
“They’ve just gone from being children to being adults whose parents can’t answer questions for them. They don’t necessarily share all of the information with us,” she explained.
“We’ve had more infections of young people in the last five days than they have in the last three months and its outrageous and you’re putting your family and your community at risk,” said Governor Ned Lamont on Monday.
Eight of the cases were identified in Woodstock.
Woodstock Academy draws students from five of the six communities where these positive cases have just been identified.
The head of the school said that information did not come in in a timely manner. It’s information the academy will count on during the school year.
“All those requirements that are supposed to be in place in order for us to reopen we can’t do,” Sandford explained.
“They put together really great plans, probably not as much fun as the plans those kids had when they went to the beach and had a big party,” Starkey said of the reopening plans from the 45 schools in her health district.
Sandford said the process of discriminating information from the lab where the positive test comes in, to the doctor, the state, and the local health department puts school systems at the end of the line. So, the academy is working to create a direct line of communication with local doctors and hospital officials to keep in the know.
“We have to make decisions that are health-based,” said Sandford. “There’s no question about it, but you need the data to do it.”