Alabama Students Hold 'COVID-19 Parties' With Prize for First Person to Get Sick

Some students in Alabama are holding COVID-19 "parties" where people who have already tested positive for the coronavirus attend and see which of their friends get the virus first in a competition, local officials said. The parties are held in Tuscaloosa, the home of the University of Alabama, Stillman College and Sheldon State Community College, City Council member Sonya McKinstry told CNN. Fire Chief Randy Smith also made a presentation to the city council this week, noting that young people are giving payouts to those who contract the coronavirus at these parties.

McKinstry said she first heard about the disturbing trend from fire officials. "We thought that was kind of a rumors 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 told CNN. According to McKinstry, the first person to get the virus after exposure to someone who already has it wins the money from ticket sales. There have been "several" of these events held in and around Tuscaloosa in recent weeks, McKinstry said.

"It makes me furious" because "something that is so serious and deadly is being taken for granted," McKinstry told CNN. She also called the parties "irresponsible" and noted that attendees could spread the virus to other members of their family at home. In response, the city is spread word about the parties and trying to break them up. The city will also have a mandatory mask ordinance starting on Monday.

During his presentation, Smith did not say how many students went to these parties or which universities they attend, reports Tuscaloosa News. The number of COVID-19 patients at DCH System hospitals in Tuscaloosa and Northport hit 53 Wednesday. It was the highest number in the past week, climbing from 41 patients during June 23-24.

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Tuscaloosa city spokesman Richard Rush told ABC News the city is "working with local agencies and organizations to ensure that we do everything in our power to fight this pandemic." The state also has a "Safer at Home Order" still in place that says people who have tested positive for the coronavirus have to be quarantined at home for 14 days. A violation of that order can result in a fine up to $500 and a misdemeanor charge, Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said.

On Thursday, Alabama hit another single-day record number of coronavirus cases, reports WSFA. Another 1,162 COVID-19 cases were confirmed overnight, the Alabama Department of Health reported. There are 797 patients being treated for the virus in Alabama hospitals, another record. Since March, just over 2,800 Alabama residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19. Overall, Alabama has logged 39,600 positive coronavirus cases.