Teens Are Throwing 'COVID Parties' To See Who Can Get Infected First as a Sick New Game

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Teens having party
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Just as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the nation, an alarming new report has also surfaced in Alabama. According to ABC News, students in Tuscaloosa are reportedly organizing "COVID parties" with classmates who have tested positive for the virus -- just to see who can get infected first. The sick new game has put parents and local officials on edge in recent weeks, and during a city council meeting on Tuesday, officials confirmed that it was definitely more than just a rumor.

  • Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC on Wednesday that several such parties have taken place throughout the city and surrounding areas.

    It's become a bizarre sort of "contest" among local teens, with party organizers inviting at least one person who has COVID-19.

    "They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID," McKinstry told the outlet. "Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense. They're intentionally doing it."

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  • During Tuesday's city council meeting, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith confirmed his knowledge of the parties.

    "We thought that was kind of a rumor at first," Smith shared, while appearing before city council members in a face mask. "We did some research. Not only do the doctors' offices confirm it, but the state confirmed they also had the same information."

  • Officials still don't know a lot of the details.

    For one thing, it's unclear just how many of these parties have taken place, and how many students became infected because of them (if any at all). It's also unclear how successful authorities can be in preventing the parties from happening to begin with.

    Still, their existence is disturbing, and officials hope this doesn't signal a growing trend, much like the so-called "Chicken Pox Parties" that made headlines year ago.

  • The good news is, the risks of contracting the coronavirus seem to remain low for young people.

    So far, preliminary studies have found that children and teens are half as likely to contract the coronavirus as those over the age of 20. But that doesn't mean they're immune. In some cases, children and even babies can become infected with the virus and suffer from intense symptoms. In fact, in April, doctors identified an emerging condition now known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (or MIS-C). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it occurs when "different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs," and is believed to be triggered by COVID-19.

  • Children are also far less likely to die from the virus, and tend to recover at faster rates than adults.

    Still, experts warn that there is still so much we do not know about COVID-19, which is why we shouldn't be cavalier with our health -- or anyone else's.

    "There is a huge puzzle over the dynamics in kids and what happens with kids," Nick Davies, an epidemiologist and mathematical modeler at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Stat News. "We don't really have that one great database, piece of evidence, or experiment that has really settled this question."

  • As for these "COVID Parties," they aren't just risky for the students who attend them.

    They also pose a threat to any elderly or immunocompromised adults who may become infected by one of the teens, should they pass the virus on. 

    Which is why Tuscaloosa officials are hoping to nip them in the bud now, by spreading awareness about them to local residents.

    "We're trying to break up any parties that we know of," McKinstry told ABC News.

    Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, also told the outlet that residents who test positive for the virus are also required to be quarantined at home for 14 days, per the state's "Safer at Home Order." Anyone who's found violating that heath order is subject to a fine of $500.

    "Suspected violations of the home quarantine order should be reported to law enforcement and the local health department," she added in a statement.

  • Alabama isn't the only state trying to get through to its youth.

    In Texas, nearly 300 teens were reportedly exposed to the virus after attending a "Pongfest" in Austin. Hundreds of attendees are still awaiting on test results, but authorities say that "several" tests have already come back positive. Now, officials are asking anyone who may have been there to self-quarantine for 14 days.

    "The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalized or dying," a statement from the Austin Health Department read. "While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune to severe illness and death from COVID-19."

    "Since we are in a period of significant community spread, our entire community should act as if they have been exposed and take the proper precautions to further prevent spread," the statement continued.