College Students Throw ‘Corona Parties’ to Intentionally Spread Virus

The University of Washington also reported an uptick in cases among students living in frats, raising more concerns about reopening campuses in the fall.
Published: July 7, 2020

City officials in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which is home to the University of Alabama and several other colleges, are warning of students holding “corona parties” to intentionally contract COVID-19.

Fire Chief Randy Smith said Tuesday at a City Council hearing that parties have been happening for several weeks now and that some students have attended parties despite knowing they were infected, reports NBC News.

“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 said.

City Council member Sonya McKinstry said money is collected at the parties and whoever gets the virus first wins the cash prize.

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“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 said. “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.”

In a statement Thursday, the state Public Health Department said it cannot confirm the coronavirus parties but that anyone violating the governor’s orders faces a misdemeanor charge and fines.

Also on Thursday, the University of Alabama tweeted it has been aware for weeks of the rumors of students attending these parties and that officials will continue to follow up on any information received.

Back in May, the Washington Department of Health reported similar parties in Walla Walla County and said at least some of its then-reported 100 cases were linked to these parties.

University of Washington Reports Outbreak at Frat Houses

While the reported parties in Tuscaloosa and Walla Walla County are extreme examples of anti-social distancing behavior, gatherings like this raise many concerns regarding how schools will be able to enforce social distancing protocols among students, especially in places where they live in close proximity to each other, like dorms and fraternity houses.

The University of Washington, which plans to reopen at the end of September with a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, reported a large uptick in coronavirus cases among students in fraternities, according to NPR.

As of July 3, 121 students — including 117 living in 15 fraternity houses this summer — tested positive for the virus. By July 5, that number jumped to 171 students, seven faculty members and 35 staffers.

The school set up a testing site near UW’s Greek Row and tested more than 1,300 students as of this past weekend. Approximately 1,000 students are currently living in 25 fraternity houses near campus.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, a health officer for Seattle and King County Public Health, said the number is “very concerning” and that he is worried students will spread the disease to more vulnerable populations.

“It does make us worry about what might happen this fall,” Duchin said. “We understand there was a lot of socializing, a lot of risk-taking, not a lot of mask-wearing going on. When you do that and you don’t take precautions, you get a lot of COVID.”

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