New York county officials threaten to fine and subpoena people who won't speak with contact tracers

The local health commissioner says she will begin fining people $2,000 a day for dodging the calls of her staffers

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February 2019
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February 2019
(Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Updated: July 2, 2020 - 8:23am

Health officials in New York are threatening to fine and subpoena a group of people that refuses to speak with them about attending a gathering that may be responsible for a cluster of coronavirus cases in the state's Rockland County, 

The gathering, which took place in mid June was hosted by someone with coronavirus symptoms, who in turn infected at least eight others. All of those infected are refusing to speak with county investigators. 

"My staff has been told that a person does not wish to or have to speak to my disease investigators. They hang up. They deny being at the party, even though we have found their names from another party attending or a parent provides us with the information. Many do not answer their cell phones and do not call back," said county Health Commissioner Patricia Ruppert. 

"Unfortunately, I am now forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us. Failure to comply will be costly – $2,000 per day," she continued.

The county previously used subpoenas during a measles outbreak years ago to compel people to cooperate with contact tracers in an effort to contain the outbreak. 

Rockland County now has the highest percentage of daily positive tests (1.2%) of all of New York's Mid-Hudson region communities. Though still a low number, especially compared with figures seen in March and April, health officials are working hard to ensure the situation doesn't quickly escalate.

Another Rockland county executive, Ed Day, clarified that the investigation is "a matter of information ... no one is in trouble." 

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