University of Alabama, State Officials Cannot Confirm Students Held 'COVID-19 Parties' as Doubt Mounts'

Following the viral story of Alabama students hosting "COVID-19 parties" in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama said it could not identify any students participating in them. The Alabama Department of Public Health also reported being unable to "verify" any parties where people contracted the coronavirus. Earlier this week, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith and City Council member Sonya McKinstry said they uncovered evidence of the parties in the city.

On Thursday, the University of Alabama said its administration has known about "rumors" of COVID-19 parties "for weeks." They performed a "thorough investigation" and were "unable to identify any students who may have participated in these types of activities." However, the university will continue to inform students on the coronavirus. "Our students want a return to on-campus instruction and the extracurricular opportunities they enjoy, and we fully expect them to safeguard their personal health and safety and that of everyone at the university and in our city," the University said.

The state's Department of Public Health (ADPH) also said it "could not verify any parties were persons tired to contract" COVID-19. Still, the department warned that it is dangerous. People "should not willfully expose themselves to this virus both for their own health and the health of others," the department said in a Twitter statement. "Persons who have COVID-19 are to remain in home quarantine for the time specified by the ADPH."

Earlier this week, Smith gave a presentation on alleged "COVID-19 parties" in Tuscaloosa, although he did not specify how many students attended these parties or what university they attend. According to Smith and McKinstry, students knowingly attended parties with someone who had the coronavirus and competed to see who tested positive for the virus first after the party. Whoever won received money from ticket sales to the parties, they said.

"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," McKinstry told CNN. She later said the parties made her "furious" because "something that is so serious and deadly is being taken for granted." She called the events "irresponsible," especially since attendees could pass the virus on to older relatives at home.

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Alabama still has a "Safer at Home" order in place, which requires residents who test positive for the virus to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. Violations of the order can result in a misdemeanor charge and a fine up to $500. "Suspected violations should be reported to law enforcement and the local county health department," the health department said.

Even if the alleged parties are not happening, the number of coronavirus cases continues to skyrocket in Alabama. On Thursday, the health department reported 41,363 confirmed coronavirus cases since the virus hit the state in March, meaning 1,758 new cases were added in 24 hours, reports AL.com. That was the most cases ever added in a single day. Hospitalizations climbed to 843, their highest level yet. Just over 430,000 people have been tested in Alabama and over 22,000 patients have recovered. There have been 983 deaths from the virus in Alabama since March.