Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have tested positive for coronavirus, have been attending parties as part of a game to see who will contract the virus off them first, according to city officials.
Tuscaloosa City councillor Sonya McKinstry told ABC News on Wednesday that local students have been organising “Covid parties” over the last few weeks.
Ms McKinstry said that organisers of the parties are inviting people they know have Covid-19 to see who will be the first to be infected at the gathering.
“They put money in a pot and they try to get Covid. Whoever gets Covid first gets the pot. It makes no sense,” the councillor said. “They’re intentionally doing it.”
Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, as well as several other colleges, according to ABC.
Ms McKinstry’s comments came the day after Tuscaloosa fire chief Randy Smith claimed in a City Council meeting, that parties had been held “where students, or kids, would come in with known positive.”
Mr Smith, who was wearing a face mask, told state officials that “we thought that was kind of a rumour at first,” but added: “We did some research. Not only do the doctors’ offices confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information.”
Under the state’s safer at home order, anyone infected with Covid-19 has to quarantine at home for 14 days, and the fine for breaking the order is up to $500 (£400).
Ms McKinstrey said that she is concerned that some people might attend the parties without knowing their purpose, and said the city’s police officers are attempting to stop the gatherings.
“We’re trying to break up any parties that we know of,” she said. “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?”
The news comes amid a dramatic rise in cases in the US, following the easing of restrictions in most states, after a period of lockdown.
On Wednesday, the US announced its highest daily total of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with 50,700 cases recorded.
Last week, president Donald Trump cancelled a rally scheduled for Alabama, after officials raised concerns about a rise in cases.
In response to the state recording more than 1,000 cases a day for a week, and their hospitalisations at an all time high, Alabama governor Kay Ivey extended her safer at home order until the end of July.
Under the order, gatherings where a distance of six foot can not be maintained between guests is banned, but barber shops, restaurants and bars are allowed to be open.
The state’s health officer, Dr Scott Harris said that they are recommending that people stay at home and take precautions, but confirmed that they will not be putting restrictions on bars and restaurants, because they believe people will break the rules anyway.
“I think we certainly would prefer to have additional restrictions if we felt like they could be effective,” Mr Harris told NPR.
“And, frankly...we don’t necessarily get the compliance we would like to see, even with the current orders in place.”
According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 2.6 million people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 128,104.