TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy called a trio of YouTubers — The Nelk Boys — willfully negligent in drawing thousands to the Seaside Heights house of "Jersey Shore" fame earlier this week.

The "merchandise drop" on September 14 by the Canadian YouTubers, who have more than 5.7 million subscribers, led to eight arrests as mask-less patrons gathered outside the home that was made famous on the MTV reality show.

“On Monday night, we saw perhaps our most extreme … and egregious display of knucklehead behavior in Seaside Heights set off by a group of YouTube pranksters who succeeded in getting the notoriety they wanted, but obviously don't deserve,” Murphy said during his September 16 coronavirus press briefing. 

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Murphy said as many as 1,000 were in attendance — not wearing masks nor social distancing. He noted the “so-called influencers” should be “taken to task” for their actions.

“I think the parties are at or near the top of the list of (the biggest threats faced by New Jersey). I’m putting aside what the virus does in terms of a second wave,” he said. 

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli led her report by referring to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Tuesday, which examined 121 deaths among people under the age of 21. Of the total deaths, 70 percent were people age 10 to 20, and 40 percent were among ages 18 to 20.

In mid-August, the percent positivity of people age 14 to 18 in New Jersey was 3 percent; today it is 7 percent. For people 19 to 24, the positivity rate has gone up from 2.7 percent in mid-August to 7.1 percent in September. In New Jersey, there have been 55 coronavirus-related deaths among people between age 18 and 29, or less than 0.5 percent of 14,263 total lab-confirmed deaths. 

“Among our younger population, we are continuing to see case numbers climb among young people. Many of these cases and clusters are a result of parties and social gatherings,” Persichilli said. “(The) study demonstrates that those under 21 are still vulnerable to COVID-19.”

It also showed, “a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and on individual youth with underlying conditions,” she added.

In a series of tweets and videos, The Nelk Boys — made up Jesse Sebastiani, Kyle Forgeard and Steve Deleonardis — responded to allegations over what took place in Seaside Heights. Forgeard posted two videos called “Addressing the Headlines,” denying that police were called and instead stating that they hired four off-duty officers along with their two security guards to ensure crowds would be dispersed. He also said the YouTubers coordinated with the landlord. 

He also said the event wasnot a party, but a “drop,” meaning they would be releasing new merchandise, and drawing so many people was not intended.

“We really learned after this I guess we have to accept now that … maybe we’re famous. It’s weird for us, kids coming from Canada, we don’t feel famous, we feel normal. We can’t even post a story of where we’re at anymore because people are just gonna pull up, and then we’re in (expletive) for starting a large gathering because of COVID,” Forgeard says in the video. 

Forgeard called it a learning experience and in regard to taking responsibility said, “We were wrong, and we’re going to have to learn from now [we] can’t post stories of anywhere where we’re at.”

Murphy urged anyone who was at the gathering in Seaside Heights to get tested.

The latest figures included 447 new coronavirus cases (total of 197,792) and 9 more known deaths. The Garden State has confirmed 14,263 deaths, with another 1,791 still pending and labeled “probable.” As far as the hospital census, there are 462 patients currently being treated for the respiratory illness (236 under investigation), 100 in intensive or critical care and 38 on ventilators. 

State health officials said 13 people, who died in New Jersey hospitals on Tuesday may in fact be COVID-related but they have yet to be confirmed.

Below is Gov. Murphy's September 16 press briefing: 

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