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Officials Investigating Wilton Party That Led To COVID Cases

 Researchers found that employing social media posts as a means of "visual nudging" to encourage safe behaviors resulted in decreased COVID-19 positivity rates of up to 25%.
Washington & Jefferson College, Washington PA
Researchers found that employing social media posts as a means of "visual nudging" to encourage safe behaviors resulted in decreased COVID-19 positivity rates of up to 25%.

A mid-December underage drinking party in Saratoga County has been linked to several cases of COVID-19. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, an investigation is underway. 

The Glens Falls City School District, in southern Warren County, recently announced that it would go all virtual for the first two weeks after students return from winter break on January 4th. 

The district says the reason for the change is the number of students in quarantine following an underage drinking party and sleepover in the Town of Wilton on December 18th. 

A December 27th statement from the district reads in part: 

“We are deeply frustrated that the irresponsible and selfish actions of a few have now led to widespread disruption for more than 2,000 students and their families. It is unconscionable that this gathering took place, after the intense efforts our students and staff members have made to keep our schools clean, healthy, and open week after week. The situation is infuriating, and we regret having to go remote in January.”

Four days earlier, the district announced that winter sports would be paused out of caution. 

The district said there indications that more than 50 people attended the party, involving students, recent graduates, and other individuals connected to district students and staff. 

Don Lehman, a spokesman for Warren County, told WAMC at least 12 recent COVID-19 cases had been linked to the party. He said contact tracers are still trying to determine exactly how many people actually attended the event. 

“There’s a possibility that this could be a pretty bad situation…it happened right before Christmas, you got people who did get together for Christmas with their families, and you kind of combine those two factors and you could have some exponential building from there, unfortunately,” said Lehman. 

Lehman said some Queensbury students have also been linked to the event. 

Tuesday afternoon, Saratoga County released a statement on the event confirming that an investigation is underway. 

The statement reads in part: 

“While Saratoga County Public Health Services continues its surveillance efforts, to date, no county residents who are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 disease have recently disclosed being present at a party in the Town of Wilton.”

The Town of Wilton is served by several school districts including the Saratoga Springs City School District, Schuylerville Central School District, and South Glens Falls Central School District. Those districts have as not as of yet announced any cases in connection to the party or any changes to January learning. 

Speaking on WAMC’s Vox Pop program Wednesday afternoon, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said his office was investigating the incident and that charges are a possibility. 

“Potentially, we need to get the details first, and then once we conclude our investigation and interview the necessary people and witnesses, we’ll make a determination on how we’re going to proceed,” said Zurlo. 

As cases continue to rise rapidly in the region, the sheriff also had words for the public. 

“We would hope that the public and the parents would know better in regards to these type of events,” said Zurlo. 

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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