TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Several college students in an Alabama city organized “COVID-19” parties as a contest to see who would get the virus first, an official said.
Students hosted the parties to intentionally infect each other with the new coronavirus, news outlets quoted Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry as saying. McKinstry said party organizers purposely invited guests who tested positive for COVID-19. She said the students put money in a pot and whoever got COVID first would get the cash.
“It makes no sense,” McKinstry said. “They’re intentionally doing it.”
Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told the City Council on Tuesday that fire officials confirmed some students had attended parties despite knowing they were infected. The department thought the parties were rumors, but Smith said after some research, officials discovered they were real.
“Not only do the doctors’ offices confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information,” Smith said.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said he had seen the news story about the reported parties, but could not officially confirm it.
Dr. Ramesh Peramsetty, a local physician, was quoted by the Tuscaloosa News as saying that there had been rumors of parties for about a month.
“While my nursing staff was triaging patients for COVID-19 swabbing, they were told about the COVID-19 house parties and were even shown videos of the parties by college students,” Peramsetty said. “When students are called for results, we noticed that some were very excited and happy that they were positive, while others were very upset that they were negative.”
McKinstry and Smith did not say which schools the students attend. Tuscaloosa is home to The University of Alabama and several other colleges.
The University of Alabama issued a statement saying they have heard rumors of such parties and are working to educate students.
“We have been aware for weeks of the rumors about COVID parties. We conducted a thorough investigation, and although we have been unable to identify any students who may have participated in these types of activities, we will continue to follow up on any information we receive and educate our students about essential precautions,” the university said in a statement.
Tuscaloosa City Council members unanimously approved a mask requirement during a meeting Tuesday.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even be fatal.
This story has been edited to clarify that the fire chief confirmed only that students had attended parties knowing they were infected.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.