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More than two dozen lifeguards in New Jersey test positive for COVID-19, health officials say

Health officials on Long Beach Island said they believe the lifeguards contracted the virus outside of work at social gatherings.
Lifeguards participate in a lifeguard competition on Long Beach Island, N.J., on Aug. 2, 2019.
Lifeguards participate in a lifeguard competition on Long Beach Island, N.J., on Aug. 2, 2019.Peter Ackerman / Asbury Park Press via Imagn

More than two dozen lifeguards on Long Beach Island tested positive for the coronavirus after attending social gatherings outside of work, healths officials said on Friday.

“The health department started receiving reports of COVID-19 activity among Surf City lifeguards on Saturday, July 18 and Harvey Cedars lifeguards on Sunday, July 19,” Daniel J. Krupinski, the Long Beach Island Health Department director, told Philadelphia public radio station WHYY.

Krupinski, who could not be immediately reached by NBC News for comment on Monday, said the lifeguards on the barrier island and popular summer destination are currently being isolated.

At least 12 of the positive cases stem from Surf City, NJ, and 17 from Harvey Cedars, according to WHYY and the Associated Press.

“We have reason to believe the case activity stems from common social gatherings outside of work on July 12 and 14,” Krupinski said, emphasizing health officials do not think they contracted COVID-19 on the beach or at work.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, director of the New Jersey Department of Health’s communicable disease service, said earlier in the month that he believes indoor parties on places like Long Beach Island are responsible for the cases, according to WHYY. The New Jersey Department of Health could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

“We certainly have evidence that indoor parties associated with beach towns and other places have occurred,” he said.

A representative for the Long Beach local government did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.

New Jersey was one of the first states to be hit hard by the coronavirus, and has recorded over 180,000 cases and 15,000 deaths.

In California, now the state with the most amount of cases, 11 lifeguards tested positive for COVID-19 in Newport Beach, according to NBC Los Angeles. The cases were confirmed on Sunday. Health officials believe the numbers happened through “community spread” and not on the job.

While it is not believed these lifeguards contracted the virus at work, the job has become more difficult during the pandemic. Lifeguards often must make direct contact with the people they are trying to save.

Tom Gill, a spokesman for the nonprofit United States Lifesaving Association, told NBC News in May that “at the end of the day, there are going to be times when you have to get really close, but there are lots of ways to minimize the impact.”