DUNDEE — A large social gathering of teenagers the night after Thanksgiving in Pawnee County has drawn attention from multiple communities because of possible COVID-19 exposure.


Cheryl Hoberecht, Pawnee County health officer and administrator, said that on the night of Nov. 27 into the early morning hours of Nov. 28, there was a large social gathering of teenagers at the diversion dam outside of Dundee in Barton County.


"We had a teenager from Pawnee County who tested positive for COVID-19 and was there," Hoberecht said. "That person knew some of those in attendance were from multiple surrounding counties including but not limited to Barton, Pawnee, Pratt and McPherson. If you or someone you know attended this large social gathering, you could have been exposed to at least one or more COVID-19 positive individuals."


In order to get the word out about possible exposure, Hoberecht said she made the decision to post about the event on the Pawnee County Health Department’s Facebook site. That post remains up with more than 500 shares and hundreds of comments.


"Our purpose was not debate whether teens should or should not have gathered there, or whether or not people should wear masks," she said. "The point was to let people know that if they were exposed, they need to self-monitor for symptoms, and if they are not feeling well, get tested."


Hoberecht said the diversion dam off the Arkansas River at Dundee has long been a teenage hangout in Barton County, the difference now is that teens going there do not seem to realize they are jeopardizing the health of their families as well as their own future involvement in school functions and athletic activities if they expose themselves to others who are positive for COVID-19.


"We need people to look at the whole scope of an activity like this," Hoberecht said. "I know young kids may not be as susceptible to coming down with COVID-19 or having symptoms, but what they do affects others, and may put a whole lot of other people in quarantine. We just need people to be aware of what happened."


The Pawnee County Health Department recommended anyone who was part of that gathering self-monitor for 14 days from the date of exposure. Monitoring from that event would go through Dec. 12.


Teens with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should be encouraged to contact their primary care provider about getting tested.


As of Dec. 1, Pawnee County health officials had identified 62 active COVID-19 cases in the community, with total community cases to date at 337. Those numbers did not include positive cases from the prison inmates, Larned State Hospital residents, or long-term care residents at community facilities in that county.