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It was reported recently in several places that students are throwing COVID parties in Alabama, and betting on getting infected first. As far as I can tell ABC News is the original source for this:

Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing "COVID parties" as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.

She said the organizers of the parties are 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."

The article is based on the statements of the city councilor and the fire chief. But there are no actual details about what evidence they are basing their claims on. Is there any evidence apart from the claims of those public officials that these kinds of parties are happening? Are there any records of such parties discovered, or broken up by the police, or people fined for breaking quarantine orders to attend such parties?

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    "They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first, the pot goes to their next of kin." – Michael Jul 3 at 19:03
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    @LаngLаngС I'm quoting a news article about Corona parties by students in Alabama where there is supposed to be a pot with the first infected person winning it. Not sure how much more specific I'm supposed to be – Mad Scientist Jul 3 at 22:25
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica wow, I still see a lot of people calling kids millennials (even though millennials are 30+), but that's the first time I've seen someone call kids gen X-ers. That generation is more likely to be a grandparent than in college. Anyway the media has been pushing the "young people will have no or mild symptoms" narrative for a while, so I don't think we can completely blame the public for believing it. – Kat Jul 4 at 14:34
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    Goes to show how confusing this American "Gen X/Y/Z" jargon is. "Millennial", too -- there's a clue in the name, but it's a misleading one if the term is meant for people born 10+ years before the turn of the millennium. – Rosie F Jul 4 at 18:19
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    @Kat It's not just the media saying that or college kids believing it. It's also statistics showing it. For example, in my state, there have been 4,900+ confirmed positive COVID cases in the 11-20 age range... and zero deaths. There have been 11,500 cases in the 21-30 age range with 6 deaths. By contrast, there have been about 1,100 cases of people 81+ years of age with 216 deaths. Everyone age 50 and under accounts for about 74% of confirmed cases and 8% of deaths. Everyone age 40 under under accounts for 58% of confirmed cases and 3% of deaths. – reirab Jul 5 at 4:35
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There might be joke or troll posts online claiming these parties exist but there is no hard evidence.

Sonya McKinstry "said she heard about the trend from fire officials".

Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told the City Council on Tuesday that he has confirmed the students' careless behavior. ... "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."

Lengthier quote from fire chief:

Tuscaloosa fire chief Randy Smith told the city council that his department had heard about parties “where students or kids would come in with known positives.” It sounded like just a rumor, Smith said, but “not only did the doctors’ offices help confirm it, but the state also confirmed they had the same information.” You’ll notice immediately that Smith didn’t say anything about people trying to get sick, let alone betting on who could do it first. So why is everyone saying that’s what happened?

"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.”

The University of Alabama claims to have investigated and found nothing.

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.

To my knowledge, at the time of writing, no-one has produced any evidence such as invites, tickets, or students.


In May, Walla Walla County in Washington State had similar rumors:

Walla Walla County has walked back their previous statements about COVID-19 “parties” taking place in the area. ... Late Wednesday, the county walked back their initial statements saying that they now believe the parties were innocent gatherings.

The state Department of Health is still alarmed by these types of reports, in Bellevue a number of KIRO 7 viewers reported spotting a similar offer for a “play date” with three contagious children recently posted on Nextdoor.

“I have three young kids who are currently contagious,” the post read. “If you would like your kids immunized, let me know and we can make arrangements for a play date.”

"Just can't be possible, others thought it was a joke,” said neighbor Heija, who told us the post was later removed. "This is not something to be trifled with and it certainly isn't an experiment to do with your kids."

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    It is interesting how the supporting statements are all indirect evidence, not first-hand experience. That is kind of what my more suspicious side suspected. – Mad Scientist Jul 3 at 15:39
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    You should clarify the last section about Walla Wall Co takes place in Washington, not Alabama. – Azor Ahai -- he him Jul 3 at 17:10
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    There's a follow up article in Wired magazine about the fire chief quote. The fire chief was referring to parties in general, not COVID parties. Apparently. – Avery Jul 3 at 19:33
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    My edit was mostly formatting, but I did take the liberty to put the summary at the top and bolded a few relevant portions of the quotes, since there is quite a bit of quoted text. – fredsbend Jul 3 at 19:56

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