At Alabama COVID Parties, Infection Comes with Cash

Tuscaloosa officials describe reckless behavior by college students
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2020 12:03 PM CDT
At Alabama COVID Parties, Infection Comes with Cash
"It makes no sense," Tuscaloosa City Councillor Sonya McKinstry says of contest to get infected, complete with cash reward.   (Getty Images/nastenkapeka)

College students known to have COVID-19 have been attending parties in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as part of a bizarre game designed to infect others, according to local officials. What's worth the risk of serious illness or death? The chance at some cash, apparently. "They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," says Sonya McKinstry, a city councilor in Tuscaloosa, which is home to three colleges including the University of Alabama, per ABC News. At a council briefing, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith described reports of parties in the city and county "over the last few weeks" in which "students or kids would come in with known positives," per WBMA. "Not only did the doctor's offices help confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information," he said.

McKinstry said officials were "trying to break up any parties that we know of," per ABC. But "how can you truly fight something that people are constantly trying to promote?" The council did vote unanimously Tuesday to make face coverings mandatory in public places beginning July 6, with violators facing a $25 fine, per Tuscaloosa News. Just one of 12 residents who addressed council members objected to the requirement. "I think we’re truly putting the people before the politics," McKinstry said. "It's just a small sacrifice to make," added councilwoman Phyllis W. Odom. "This was like a no-brainer for me." As of Wednesday, Alabama had recorded 38,422 cases of COVID-19, 10,696 of those coming in the last 14 days, with at least 947 deaths. Tuscaloosa County has seen 2,049 cases and 38 deaths. (A party-goer in California died days after remarking on his own "stupidity.")

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