Alabama students hosting 'COVID parties' to see who gets infected fastest

"They put money in a pot, and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," a Tuscaloosa council member said. "They're intentionally doing it."

Teenagers partying 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Teenagers partying 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Several college students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, some of whom have been confirmed positive for the new coronavirus, have been attending parties recently with the specific goal of seeing "who can catch the virus first," city council member Sony McKinstry told ABC news on Wednesday.
McKinstry said the organizers of the parties have been purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.
"They put money in a pot, and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," McKinstry said. "They're intentionally doing it."
An investigation into the matter was opened after police found students, who knew they were COVID-19 positive, attending parties in the area, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith said during a city council meeting on Tuesday.
"We thought that was kind of a rumor at first," Smith told the council members. "We did some research. Not only do the doctors' offices confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information."
Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the state's "Safer at Home Order" explicitly states that people who test positive "shall be quarantined to their place of residence for a period of 14 days." In the case that someone is caught not complying with regulations, they would incur a misdemeanor fine of up to $500.
It was unclear if the COVID-positive students had infected anyone at the parties they attended, though McKinstry said she fears some people going to these parties haven't been informed of the true purpose of the germ-spreading events.
"We're trying to break up any parties that we know of," McKinstry told ABC News, adding the infected students are obviously disregarding the state quarantine guidelines.
Tuscaloosa is the seventh-largest city in Alabama, a state which has seen a worrying rise in coronavirus infection rates since early June. Tuscaloosa is the fifth most afflicted county in the state, with 18.2 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people, according to data published by the Alabama Political Reporter.
As of Wednesday, Alabama had recorded 38,422 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 10,696 in the last 14 days, according to data provided by the state Department of Public Health. At least 947 people have died in Alabama from the virus.