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Explained: Why ‘coronavirus parties’ are a new worry in the US

Coronavirus parties in the US: Over the past few weeks, there have been several parties in the city of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas, with authorities only recently beginning to crack the whip.

Written by Abhishek De , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 9, 2020 7:33:20 am
Over the past few weeks, there have been several parties in the city of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

Recently, reports that college students have been organising ‘Covid parties’ in Alabama, the US, created an uproar on social media. The aim behind such parties is quite simple: whoever gets infected first, wins the prize money. The students have intentionally been inviting already infected patients so they can infect others.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several parties in the city of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas, with authorities only recently beginning to crack the whip. However, the Alabama Department of Health has stated that it “has not been able to verify such parties have taken place”.

The developments come at a time when Alabama is one of several states reporting record increases in new coronavirus cases in the past week in what has raised fears of a “second wave” of infections. The state has reported more than 1,000 infections for the past two days.

Alabama has so far reported 43,450 cases, including 984 deaths. At least 2,188 of those cases are in Tuscaloosa County, which has recorded 42 deaths. Governor Kay Ivey has extended the state of emergency in the state to September 9.

What are Covid parties?

The concept of Covid parties involves inviting students who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus along with uninfected people. Then bets are placed on who contracts the virus first. The first person confirmed by a doctor to have been infected after the exposure wins the money made off the ticket sales.

Where have these Covid parties been held? Is it a new trend?

The parties have been reported from Tuscaloosa, a city in western Alabama, which is home to The University of Alabama and several other colleges. However, similar instances of coronavirus parties have also been reported earlier in Washington’s Walla Walla County, with officials saying some of the nearly 100 cases in the region appear to have been intentionally spread or infected at these “Covid parties.”

Back in March, Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said during a daily public-health update that one case in the state had been tied to a “coronavirus party”.

How have the authorities reacted?

The developments came to light after Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith confirmed the incidents to the city council last week, AP reported.

City Council member Sonya McKinstry told CNN that authorities thought it was a kind of rumour at first. “We did some research, not only do the doctors’ offices confirm it, but the state confirmed they also had the same information,” she said.

“They put money in a pot and they try to get Covid. Whoever gets Covid first gets the pot. It makes no sense. We are trying to break up any parties that we know of,” she further said.

The city is working on getting the word out and cracking the whip on such parties. It also passed an ordinance making masks mandatory while stepping out last week that goes into effect on Monday.

What has made the task difficult for authorities to track how many students have been infected is the fact that many of them have out-of-state addresses and just go to school in Alabama.

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In a statement, the University of Alabama said it had been aware of “rumours” of students throwing “Covid parties” and had conducted an investigation. “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.

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