McKinstry first heard of the careless behavior from the fire department, which alerted her that students were gathering with individuals confirmed to have COVID-19 to bet who gets infected by the virus first. "It makes me furious," McKinstry said. "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."
While it sounds like a rumor, this game is a nasty reality. In a briefing to the City Council, Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith said that after doing some research, it was confirmed that these parties were not rumors but information confirmed by both the state and doctors’ offices. He added that the disturbing behavior was taking place in and surrounding Tuscaloosa county, “where students, or kids, would come in with known positive,” according to a video recording of the meeting obtained by ABC News affiliate station WBMA.
The schools the students were from is unclear, as is how many people have been infected from attending these gatherings. A spokesperson for the city confirmed that they are “working with local agencies and organizations to ensure that we do everything in our power to fight this pandemic," ABC News reported.
McKinstry said the city is doing what it can to stop these parties. Following Tuesday’s meeting, the city council passed an ordinance requiring individuals to wear masks in public. The ordinance goes into effect July 6. "It makes me mad as hell that, you know, we're constantly trying to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus while they're just having a damn party trying to spread it," McKinstry said.
According to ABC News, information regarding the “COVID parties” followed an announcement by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey that she would be extending the state’s "Safer at Home" orders through July 31. The order states that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 "shall be quarantined to their place of residence for a period of 14 days," Arrol Sheehan, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, reiterated. Sheehan noted that the penalty for violating the order is a misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.
Data compiled by The Washington Post found that at least 21 states have seen an increase in their daily average of new COVID-19 since June. Data found that Alabama saw a 92% increase in its seven-day average in just the first to the second week of June. As of this report, there have been at least 40,111 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Alabama and at least 985 reported deaths as a result of COVID-19, The New York Times reported.
"This is not political. This is a public health issue. People are dying and there is no cure. We have to do whatever we can to save as many lives as possible,” McKinstry said.