‘Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot’: Alabama students ‘intentionally’ throw coronavirus parties to see who can get infected first – with the ‘winner’ taking home money, official says
- Parties in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have been held to deliberately spread COVID-19
- Councillor Sonya McKinstry and fire chief Randy Smith confirmed gatherings
- Ms McKinstry said hosts invited people who tested positive for coronavirus
- Person who caught the disease first could take home a pot of money, she said
Alabama students have been throwing parties to see who can get coronavirus first – with the ‘winner’ taking home a pot of money.
The hosts of the parties in Tuscaloosa deliberately invited people who had tested positive for coronavirus, according to city councilor Sonya McKinstry.
She told ABC news: ‘They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense. They’re intentionally doing it.’
It comes as the city council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings in the street.
Recently the city, home to The University of Alabama and several other colleges, has seen a spike in cases with a total of 2,049 testing positive and 38 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.
Fire chief Randy Smith confirmed the students behavior at a city council meeting on Tuesday.
The hosts of the parties in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, deliberately invited people who had tested positive for coronavirus, according to officials. Pictured, DCH Regional Medical Center opened a drive-thru testing facility in the city
‘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.’
Alabama has recorded 38,422 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 10,696 in the last 14 days, according to data provided by the state Department of Public Health. At least 947 people have died in Alabama from the virus.
City councilor Sonya McKinstry said people were putting money in a pot and taking it home if they became ill first
Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the state’s ‘Safer at Home Order’ asks people who test positive to quarantine at ‘their place of residence for a period of 14 days’.
She said violation was a misdemeanor with potential fines of up to $500.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey previously said she would extend the ‘Safer at Home’ orders until July 31 because of the rise in cases.
The staggering move is in a similar manner to so-called chicken pox parties which some parents organised to spread the illness to their youngsters while they were still at a young enough age to effectively fight it off.
However the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned vaccination is the only safe way to avoid the potentially life-threatening illness.
It says: ‘There is no way to tell in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be. So it is not worth taking the chance of exposing your child to someone with the disease.’
The Alabama parties come after a cluster of COVID-19 cases were linked to a New York party host who knew they had coronavirus symptoms and threw a bash anyway.
Attendees are refusing to work with health officials to contain the outbreak.
The blowout on June 17 in West Nyack, Rockland County, led the host and eight partygoers to test positive for the virus.
Fire chief Randy Smith (pictured) told the city council on Tuesday that he could confirm the students’ behavior
A crowd of up to 100 people, most in their earlier 20s, turned up to the house party, which violated a state order banning gatherings of over 10 people, according to the New York Times.
It was the first of three large parties in Rockland County in the past two weeks. The other two parties where guests are believed to have overlapped were thrown on June 20 and June 27, both in New City.
Officials say multiple people who attended one or more of the parties are refusing to cooperate with contact tracers, a strategy that is crucial to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, leading local officials to issue subpoenas.
‘My staff has been told that a person does not have to or wish to speak to my disease investigators. They hang up.
‘They deny being at the party even though we have found their name from another attendee,’ Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Ruppert said.
A party host in Rockland County, New York, threw a bash with over 100 guests despite knowing they had coronavirus symptoms on June 17, leading to a cluster of nine cases. The county has over 13,600 confirmed virus cases and 668 deaths from COVID-19
Officials announced subpoenas will be issued to eight non-compliant party goers believed to have attended the June 17 party on Wednesday. Those who do not comply by Thursday face fines of $2,000 a day, officials said.
‘We are deadly serious. I will not allow the health of our county compromised because of ignorance, stupidity or obstinance,’ Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.
Issuing subpoenas to help curb the outbreak was a tactic used during the measles outbreak in Rockland County years ago to force people to work with contact tracers.
The cluster of cases may be linked to an infected student from Florida who attended a Horace Greeley High School drive-in graduation ceremony on June 20 in Chappaqua, according to NBC.
Health officials are now asking anyone who attended that graduation ceremony to self-quarantine until July 5 and work with contact tracers who may call.
Ruppert says she has been tipped off that more festivities may be planned for July Fourth.
On Wednesday Rockland County reported 1.2 percent daily positive tests, the highest percentage of all seven counties in New York’s Mid-Hudson region.
The county has 13,602 confirmed virus cases and 668 deaths from COVID-19 as of Thursday midnight.
On Wednesday five people in the county were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus and five others were suspected of having the virus.
New York has been the hardest-hit state in the COVID-19 pandemic with nearly 400,000 confirmed cases and nearly 25,000 fatalities.
In New York City 3,000 disease detectives and case monitors were hired by last month in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Alabama has started cutting unemployment benefits for people who refuse to return to work after the coronavirus lockdown.
Employers reported 3,336 people to state authorities for refusing to return to work since January, according to AL.com.
Workers who are directly affected by coronavirus will not have their benefits cut – but a general unease about returning to work is not a good enough excuse, officials say. Ohio has previously imposed similar rules.
New York has been the hardest-hit state in the COVID-19 pandemic with nearly 400,000 confirmed cases and nearly 25,000 fatalities. Governor Andrew Cuomo at his daily coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday
Tara Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Labor, said cases had been reported where bosses ‘have called the employee back to work and the employee has refused’.
The volume of ‘refusal to work’ cases being reviewed is unusually high due to the pandemic, she said.
The state has so far denied benefits to 909 workers who opted not to return and has stopped benefits in order to review 2,317 more cases.
The federal CARES Act allows workers impacted by Covid-19 to stay on unemployment benefits under some circumstances.
These include employees who currently have the disease itself, or are caring for someone who is infected.
Caring for a child whose school is closed or dealing with the Covid-19 death of a primary breadwinner are other exceptions under the federal legislation.
However, those who simply feel unsafe returning to work are not protected. ‘A general fear is not a valid reason,’ Hutchinson said.
After the labor department is notified of a ‘refusal to work’ by an employer, it contacts the employer and employee to learn details of the situation and to determine whether to end benefits.
Hutchinson said the review has been delayed by the overwhelming volume of claims her office is managing.
Alabama has begun docking unemployment benefits for people who refuse to return to work after the coronavirus lockdown (file photo)
‘We have a limited amount of staff and only a couple of people can work the refusal to works,’ she said.
UAB professor of Management, Dr. George Munchus, said going forward will require mutual adjustments from employers and workers.
‘Employers are going to have to listen to some of the ideas the employees have on how to make the workplace safe,’ he said.
Alabama has started reopening from lockdown despite a rise in new cases, with 9,181 new infections reported in the last two weeks.
Over the two weeks up to June 21, Alabama had the second highest number of new cases per capita in the nation.
South Carolina was fourth while Louisiana and Mississippi were also in the top 10 amid fears of a growing surge in the South.
Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine, said the South has high rates of diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and high blood pressure – all illnesses that put people at risk from Covid-19.