Walla Walla County, Wash., officials are warning people against throwing COVID-19 parties in an effort to expose people to the virus.
The county’s Department of Community Health said it had been receiving reports of parties where people who were not infected were interacting with infected people in an effort to contract the virus. Officials advised against these parties in a Monday release, saying some people are at higher risk to develop a severe illness from the disease.
“As COVID-19 cases in Walla Walla County continue to rise, health officials strongly recommend you remain vigilant with physical distancing to limit community transmission of the virus,” the department said in the release.
As of Tuesday morning, the county has reported 94 cases of coronavirus and one death. Washington state as a whole has documented 15,594 cases and 862 deaths, according to the state health department. According to a New York Times analysis, the number of new cases in the state has decreased since the original spike at the beginning of April but is now slowly increasing.
Officials said parents decades ago had gone to “chicken pox parties” to allow unvaccinated children to get the disease while they were younger and become immune. However, the officials stressed that they don’t know if COVID-19 parties would produce the same results.
Department officials cautioned that “there is much we don’t know about COVID-19,” including whether immunity exists and if so, how it works.
Epidemiologists “don’t know if immunity is a sure thing, if reinfection is possible, or if virus could continue living inside you,” the release said. “They do know that even the young can be hospitalized, survivors may suffer long-term damage, and even a ‘mild’ case isn’t mild.”
The reports of parties come as many states are taking steps toward reopening their economies, and people are getting eager to leave self-isolation. Health officials are trying to balance loosening social distancing policies, with avoiding an increase in cases.
Protests have broken out in some states against the stay-at-home orders instituted by governors to stop the spread of the virus.