When a police cruiser rolled up to a house party in Sudbury, Mass., earlier this month, teens sprinted into the woods, chucking beer cans as they fled. In the basement, police found dozens more underage drinkers, all breaking pandemic rules by packing together in a basement with no masks.
So much vitriol has flowed at the couple, who weren’t identified by police, that authorities are urging locals to accept that family will face some justice in court.
“We encourage residents to refrain from making any more volatile comments on social media regarding this incident as we are holding those responsible for providing the venue accountable,” Sudbury Police Chief Scott Nix said in a statement Tuesday.
While college students have made headlines nationwide by hosting parties in defiance of coronavirus regulations, helping to fuel campus outbreaks from Alabama to Ohio, the Sudbury case shows the phenomenon also threatens high schools trying to reopen during a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States.
Officers in Sudbury, a historic town near Boston, first responded to the house party about 10 p.m. on Sept. 11 after someone called to report a “large, underage drinking party,” police said. They found at least 50 teenage partyers inside.
The officers stepped over beer cans and cups full of booze strewn around the yard as teens sprinted away from the scene. Several of the partygoers threatened the officers, police said.
Police tried to contact the parents of many of the teens at the party, but they soon discovered that at least 13 had given them fake names. About 15 other teens disappeared into the woods, police said.
Those dozens of unidentified drinkers were a problem for health officials and school administrators. Even though there were no known novel coronavirus cases at the party, the high school would need to quarantine everyone there to safely reopen.
“Due to the lack of information of who attended the event and the inability to consult directly with those students, the risk to the school community cannot be adequately assessed,” the Town of Sudbury Board of Health said in a statement.
Administrators had planned to reopen Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School days later with some in-person classes. Instead, they asked all students to stay home for two more weeks of remote learning.
“After the intensity of hard work and planning that has been done to be able to start school with students in-person, we are profoundly disappointed at this sudden change of plans,” Bella Wong, the school principal and district superintendent, wrote in a letter to parents reviewed by Wicked Local. “I know you must be as disappointed.”
On Tuesday, Sudbury police charged the parents and teenager behind the party with violating Massachusetts’ social host law. Under the law, adults who enable underage drinkers can face up to a $2,000 fine or a year in prison.
A hybrid learning schedule, with some in-person classes, is set to begin at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School on Tuesday, Wong said.
Coronavirus: What you need to know
Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.
New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.
Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.
Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.
For the latest news, sign up for our free newsletter.