Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have been throwing "COVID parties" with cash rewards to intentionally infect each other with the coronavirus, Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said.
Speaking to ABC News, McKinstry explained that several of the students who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area where the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.
"They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," McKinstry told the outlet. "They're intentionally doing it."
Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith also confirmed the behavior to the City Council on Tuesday, per local NBC affiliate WVTM 13.
"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."
Over the last few weeks there have been several of these parties in the city and surrounding area, and likely more that officials aren't aware of, McKinstry said.
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"We're trying to break up any parties that we know of," McKinstry told ABC.
She later told CNN, "It makes me furious, Furious to the fact that something that is so serious and deadly is being taken for granted."
"Not only is it irresponsible, but you could contract the virus and take it home to your parents or grandparents," she added.
Additionally, the state's "Safer at Home Order" explicitly states that people who test positive have to be "quarantined to their place of residence for a period of 14 days."
Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said that a violation of the heath order is a misdemeanor and fines for each violation can be up to $500.
"Suspected violations of the home quarantine order should be reported to law enforcement and the local health department," she told ABC.
As of Thursday, July 2, cases of the coronavirus are on the rise in Alabama, per the New York Times database. The state has reported a total of 38,962 cases and at least 972 deaths.
Over the last 14 days, the Alabama State Department of Public Health says there has been an increase of 10,696 cases, according to ABC.
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