• A city council member in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, told ABC News on Wednesday that students in the college town have been throwing “COVID parties.”
  • People infected with the coronavirus are invited to the parties, and attendees take bets on who will get sick first.
  • As of Thursday, the state has seen more than 38,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 947 deaths. Authorities have warned of ICU beds running out.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

College students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have been throwing parties where they invite people infected with the coronavirus and gamble on who comes down with the illness first, city officials said.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News about the practice on Wednesday. Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith first reported the parties at a pre-council meeting on Tuesday, according to WBMA.

Smith said the fire service had received reports of students throwing parties and inviting “known positives,” but thought it was “a rumor at first.”

“We did some additional research … not only did the doctor’s offices help confirm it, but the state confirmed they had the same information,” Smith said, according to WBMA.

McKinstry, the city council member, went into more detail about the parties on Wednesday.

McKinstry told ABC News that not only were these parties with the infected taking place — attendees were also gambling on who would get sick next.

“They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot,” she said.

“It makes no sense.”

Officials did not say which college the students attend. The largest school based in Tuscaloosa is the University of Alabama.

In March, the University of Alabama cancelled in-person classes and spring commencement to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, it plans to reopen the campus for some in-person classes in the fall, according to the school’s website.

McKinstry said authorities are now trying to break up any parties that they hear of, and said it would be challenging.

“It’s nonsense,” she said. “But I think when you’re dealing with the mind frame of people who are intentionally doing stuff like that and they’re spreading it intentionally, how can you truly fight something that people are constantly trying to promote?”

Alabama residents are currently under an order to quarantine for 14 days if they test positive for the coronavirus. Breaking that quarantine can incur a fine up to $500.

As of Thursday, there were more than 38,000 positive cases in the state — 2,049 of which were in Tuscaloosa County alone. More than 2,800 have been hospitalized and there had been 947 deaths, according to state figures.

Health authorities have warned of ICU beds running out in the state. Dr. Don Williamson, a doctor with Alabama’s Hospital Association, told WBMA last week that 82% of ICU beds in the entire state are now full.

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