MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – There is growing concern in New Jersey over the rise in COVID-19 cases among young people.

Now one Essex County town has a new program that employs teens and young adults to help spread the message about masks and social distancing.

Before their shift in Maplewood Friday night, 16-year-old Phoebe Hill and 24-year-old Delainey Fuschetto, decked out in neon safety vests, explained to CBS2’s Alice Gainer what it is they do as social distancing ambassadors.

“We rotate through the four parks. We have one partner with us and we go out,” Hill said.

“Just interacting with our younger population, handing out masks and literature,” Fuschetto said.


The program began two and half weeks ago and consists of eight ambassadors and four supervisors checking for masks.

If you don’t have one, they’ll give you one, and they’ll explain why it is so important. So far, they say people are receptive.

“We learned about how to interact with people and maintain a positive presence and not seem like a regulatory force but more of a way to interact and build relationships,” Hill said.

Town officials say having this younger group out is less confrontational than having police officers out checking. The sight of the group also serves as a reminder to those who may be simply still forgetting to put on their mask.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“There is the perception that young people don’t take this as seriously and I’ve definitely seen that. But I think amongst my friends we definitely have an understanding that this is important, and that we have the obligation to protect older people. I live with my grandma so I know that I have to be careful,” Hill said.

“We have other towns reaching out to us to see how are you guys doing it, how are you getting teenagers involved, how are you getting young people involved,” Fuschetto said.

This brand new kind of paid summer job aims to combat the spread through the spread of in-person messaging. They’re out there weeknights and weekends.

The group also goes to the Maplewood farmer’s market, and other parts of town.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 341 cases in Maplewood.

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