Story at a glance
- Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News Wednesday students in the city and surrounding areas have been holding the parties as part of a game to intentionally pass each other the virus.
- “They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense,” McKinstry told ABC. “They’re intentionally doing it.”
- It’s not clear if the COVID-positive students infected anyone.
College students in Tuscaloosa, Ala., are throwing “COVID parties” in which they invite people infected with the coronavirus and bet on who will get sick first, according to city officials.
Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News Wednesday students in the city and surrounding areas have been holding the parties as part of a game to intentionally pass each other the virus that has infected nearly 2.7 million people in the U.S. and left more than 128,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
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“They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense,” McKinstry told ABC. “They’re intentionally doing it.”
On Tuesday, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told city officials fire service discovered students who knew they were COVID-19 positive were attending parties around the city over the past few weeks. Smith said he believed it to be a rumor.
“We had seen over the last few weeks parties going on in the county, or throughout the city and county in several locations where students or kids would come in with known positive. We thought that was kind of a rumor at first...we did some additional research. Not only did the doctor’s offices help confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information,” Smith told city council members Tuesday.
It’s not clear if the COVID-19-positive students infected anyone.
“We’re trying to break up any parties that we know of,” McKinstry told ABC. “But I think when you’re dealing with the mind frame of people who are intentionally doing stuff like that and they’re spreading it intentionally, how can you truly fight something that people are constantly trying to promote?”
The University of Alabama is the largest college in the city, but city officials did not mention the university by name. There are several other colleges in the city, which is the seventh-largest in Alabama.
Alabama has confirmed more than 40,000 cases and 985 deaths, according to the state health department.
There have been rumblings about people holding so-called coronavirus parties since the outbreak began, including in Washington state where the state's health department issued a warning against such behavior in early May.
But some experts have warned to digest such instances with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Urban folklorist Benjamin Radford recently told Rolling Stone stories of coronavirus parties are likely untrue.
"They're a variation of older disease urban legends such as the 'bug chaser' stories about people trying to get AIDS," Radford told Rolling Stone referring to media stories that began circulating early on during the AIDS epidemic.
The U.S. is currently experiencing a surge in cases. On Wednesday, more than 52,000 cases were reported, the largest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.
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