Two dozen lifeguards in neighboring Long Beach Island communities are out of commission after contracting the coronavirus.

Health officials on LBI believe the lifeguards got infected after attending after-hours social gatherings on July 12 and 14, WHYY reported.

Harvey Cedars reported that 14 of their lifeguards who attended a Surf City party tested positive. Another dozen lifeguards from Surf City also tested positive.

Harvey Cedars said the lifeguards have been taken off duty in order to quarantine. They will return to work after being cleared by the LBI Health Department.

Harvey Cedars said it has 73 lifeguards, so beaches should remain fully staffed.

On the job, the lifeguards carry a fanny pack with sanitizing wipes and masks. They also sit in separate chairs and remain 6 feet from each other and visitors to the beach.

This is the latest outbreak this summer among young people, who most often do not develop the most serious and deadly complications from COVID-19 but who are more likely to not realize that they are sick.

The spread of the virus by people who either don't have or don't know they have symptoms is the reason why health officials encourage everyone to social distance, avoid indoor gatherings and to wear face coverings in public spaces like stores and offices.

In Middletown, at least 31 teens contracted coronavirus this summer, many after attending a party. Health officials said they encountered some resistance when contact tracers attempted to question them in order to warn others who might have been exposed.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday said some of the people may have clammed up because they were afraid of getting in trouble for underage drinking.

"To be perfectly clear, this is not a witch hunt to root out anyone who was drinking underage, although we do not condone underage drinking," he said. "This is a race against the clock to ensure that anyone who may have been exposed to coronavirus is identified before they infect anyone else."

Murphy said the contact tracers ask "straightforward" questions: whether the person has a safe place to quarantine at home, whether they have a private bathroom, whether they have special needs or are able to access food during the 14-day self-quarantine, and whether they may have been where others also may have been exposed.

"No one is looking to bust a kid for underage drinking but everyone is looking out for the community at large," Murphy said.

As of Friday, the state had recorded 13,845 lab-confirmed deaths from COVID-19 with another 1,920 possible deaths.

Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex counties had the most new cases counted on a single day, with 45, 43 and 42, respectively.

The rate of transmission in the state was 0.84. Health officials want to keep the rate below 1.0, which would mean that each infected person would be spreading the virus to an average of one other person.

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