Alabama officials warn of students holding coronavirus parties to intentionally get infected

A Tuscaloosa City Council member said, "We're constantly trying to do everything we can to slow the spread, while they're just having a damn party trying to spread it."

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By Minyvonne Burke

Officials in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are warning that several students are throwing coronavirus parties where people who have the virus are invited to intentionally infect others.

Fire Chief Randy Smith said at a City Council hearing Tuesday that the parties have been happening for several weeks.

"We thought that was kind of a rumor at first. We did some additional research. Not only did the doctors' offices help confirm it, but the state ... they also had the same information," Smith told the council.

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The state Public Health Department said in a statement Thursday that it has not been able to confirm the coronavirus parties. It said anyone violating the governor's health order faces a misdemeanor charge and fines.

City Council member Sonya McKinstry told NBC affiliate WVTM of Birmingham that money is collected at the parties and that whoever gets the coronavirus first wins the cash.

"At first, I couldn't believe it that these kids are having parties and they're putting money in a pot and they purposefully try to get COVID from the person who has COVID, and apparently whoever gets COVID first gets the pot," she told the station.

McKinstry slammed the parties as contrary to all the work of public officials during the pandemic.

"It makes me mad as hell that we're constantly trying to do everything we can to slow the spread, while they're just having a damn party trying to spread it," she said.

Smith did not say at the council hearing how officials plan to stop the parties. The Tuscaloosa fire and police departments did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

Just hours after the hearing Tuesday, the City Council unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings in public. The ordinance goes into effect Monday.

Alabama has confirmed over 10,000 coronavirus cases within the last 14 days, according to the state's public health website. There have been 38,442 cases in the state since testing began in March.

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Gov. Kay Ivey extended the state's "Safer At Home" order through July 31, prohibiting gatherings unrelated to work when people cannot maintain distances of 6 feet.

"I urge you, in the strongest way I know how, to incorporate #COVID19 precautions into your daily routine. You are strongly encouraged to maintain a 6-foot distance & to wear a mask when out in public," the governor tweeted Tuesday.

"Personal responsibility means it is everyone's responsibility. If we continue going in the wrong direction, and our hospitals are not able to handle the capacity of patients, then we're going to reserve the right to come back in & reverse course," she added.