A Texas mayor is issuing a dire warning to local teens following an enormous get-together held in the area. The so-called “Pong Fest,” an annual party held by teens in the town of Lakeway, went ahead on June 20 this year in defiance of stay-at-home orders and bans on large gatherings. The event was reportedly attended this year by 100-300 young people, some of whom were known to have tested positive for COVID-19. Now, Mayor Sandy Cox and other officials are urging those who attended to self-isolate, and those with symptoms to get tested immediately.
KXAN news reports that “Pong Fest” is a yearly event attended by high school students, although it’s not put on or affiliated with any particular school. The location of the party is traditionally not revealed until a few hours before it’s scheduled to start.
“They start planning it early in the year, there’s a small committee of people who know everything about it,” local resident Aly Kotal told KVUE news. “They sell wristbands and everything and it’s apparently only four or five hours [before] that the location is released.”
This year, the event reportedly took place at a ranch near Lakeway. While Mayor Cox and the Austin Public Health department had heard of 300 attendees at the party, students who attended put the number closer to 100, according to KXAN. Still, Austin Public Health reported that several attendees had been awaiting COVID-19 test results, some of which ended up being positive.
Mayor Cox is warning that the event may lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the area.
“Unfortunately, our caseload is probably going to increase and it’s because there was a very large party this past Saturday and it was a number of high school students, and some in attendance tested positive for COVID-19,” the mayor said in a video shared to Facebook on June 25.
The mayor also said a local hospital would open up a new testing site for those who attended the party.
“We need anyone who went to that party to isolate for 14 days,” Cox continued. “And if you have been in contact with anyone else at that party, they need to isolate for 14 days. If you are symptomatic, go get tested.”
Meanwhile, Kotal, who works for a local babysitting company, says she’s spoken to parents who are concerned that their favorite sitter may have attended.
“I’ve already had five or six parents go, ‘So-and-so babysits for me, can you please privately message them and ask if they were at this party?” she said.
Austin Public Health gave KVUE a statement addressing the risks stemming from large gatherings like Pong Fest.
“Epidemiologists are asking that participation in gatherings be mentioned during their contact tracing investigations to help identify potential clusters,” the statement said. “The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying. While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19.”