Many older millennials might remember the furor over "Rainbow Parties" back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. We're not going to get into all the details of this peculiar-sounding "youth culture trend" - the only thing that's really relevant to our discussion is that these lurid stories horrified parents and - as it turns out - were completely, entirely made-up.
And so it is with the latest COVID-19 related outrage: comments from Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry, who warned that bored college and high school students in her district were throwing "COVID Parties" where everybody hangs out with somebody who has the virus, and they all place bets on who tests positive first.
Thanks to the Internet, teenagers and young adults have been caught doing many extremely dumb things, like eating tidepods and whatnot. But even those trends were massively overblown and largely the work of a few trolls. This too stretches credulity. So, what kind of evidence does McKinstry have to support this claim?
Actually, quite a bit. State officials have confirmed that 8 cases have been linked to a house party full of 20 year olds somewhere in New York. The host was already symptomatic during the event, and officials heard about two other parties.
McKinstry told ABC that students have been organizing "COVID parties" as a game to intentionally infect each other presumably so they can "get it over with" and get the antibodies, even though the durability of these antibodies to provide lasting protection between 'seasons' hasn't yet been closely studied. Organizers of these parties are purposefully seeking out and inviting COVID-19 positive young people to these parties.
"They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," McKinstry said. "They're intentionally doing it."
Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith told the City Council on Tuesday that he has confirmed the behavior.
And what's worse, those rumored to have attended aren't cooperating with contact tracers, and 9 people have been subpoenaed over this.
Across the US, young people gathering in bars and other social settings (like protests) have helped reignite the outbreak and push it to a new level of intensity, jeopardizing the progress made by the most successful states. One of the more interesting details about this story is that these "COVID-19 parties" didn't actually happen in Tuscaloosa, they happened in Westchester.
We're not exactly sure how the kids from Tuscaloosa managed to travel back and forth, but we imagine it wasn't very difficult.
Meanwhile, more schools like Yale are calling for remote learning next semester which might leave more college students languishing in their hometowns.
With many young people likely staying home through the fall, we imagine this won't be the last example of friction between rebellious young people and the authorities charged with enforcing social distancing.