Police are investigating after an alleged underage drinking party was held over the weekend in a central Massachusetts town, potentially exposing dozens of young people to the coronavirus.
Police say the party, with at least 30 people between the ages of 16 and 23 in attendance, was held on the night of July 24 in Spencer, a town of just over 11,000 people in Worcester County. The party included people from across Massachusetts and as far away as New Hampshire, police said.
Party host Noel Casiano and his friends say they now realize they made a mistake hosting the party, but they strongly refute claims by police that they may have tried to purposely expose themselves to the virus
"It was definitely an overhype, definitely overexaggerated, but it was definitely an irresponsible move on our part," Casiano told NBC10 Boston on Tuesday.
Casiano admits no one at the party was wearing masks or following social distancing guidelines.
Police said they learned days later that one person at the party claimed to have been in close contact with someone who had the coronavirus. That person originally told police he tested positive for COVID-19, but they learned he had actually not yet received his results.
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Casiano says they also learned that a young woman who attended the party had allegedly lied to them about her health.
"There was an acquaintance who came to the party and had said, 'Oh, I have strep,' and then later on they admitted that they did have COVID, that they tested positive," Casiano said. "So that's when we all were like, 'OK, we've got to go to the doctors.'"
"We all got tested. Luckily we all are negative, so the fact that it raises coronavirus concerns… I understand," said Danny Anderson, who attended the party.
Health officials raised similar concerns when eight Falmouth lifeguards tested positive after a party, and there were over 10 positive tests after a party in Chatham recently.
"It was upsetting to like, come to realize that we still can't be doing this because it's been so long and we're just so excited to like – summer's literally like almost over and it's sucky," Casiano said.
The friends say they are now quarantining at home for two weeks. They also won't be partying anytime soon.
"It was a lesson to be learned, it was a lesson to be learned for sure," Casiano said. "Like, it's a new experience for everybody."
As coronavirus restrictions began lifting across the country, there were reports in states across the country of so-called "COVID parties," where groups of young people would attend a gathering with someone who was infected with the intention of trying to catch the virus. Health experts and other officials have expressed doubt over whether the "COVID parties" are real, or if young people attending parties were just not following the proper precautions.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday that coronavirus clusters on Cape Cod and at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield are contributing to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts.
The Cape Cod cluster stemmed from a private house party of 30 to 50 people who work in the restaurant industry in Chatham on July 12 where 13 of the attendees wound up testing positive for the coronavirus. People at the party reportedly weren't wearing masks.
The second cluster involved an employee of Baystate Medical Center who traveled to a state that is a hot spot for coronavirus and upon his return did not wear a mask. Twenty-three employees and 13 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 as a result.