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.”
Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told the City Council on Tuesday that he has confirmed the students’ careless behavior.
In a briefing to the City Council, Smith expressed concern that in recent weeks there have been parties held throughout the city and surrounding Tuscaloosa County, “where students, or kids, would come in with known positive,” according to a video recording of the meeting obtained by ABC affiliate station WBMA in Birmingham.
“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.”
In his presentation, Smith, who wore a face mask, did not say what is being done to curb the behavior or what schools the students were from. Tuscaloosa is the seventh-largest city in Alabama and home to The University of Alabama and several other colleges.
Just hours after Smith’s briefing, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings when out in public.
They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot.Sonya McKinstry, Tuscaloosa City Council
On Wednesday, Holly Whigham, a spokesperson for the fire department, told ABC News, “We are not releasing any statements about what was said last night.”
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