Reports of COVID-19 parties may be unsubstantiated, but experts warn against socializing with virus symptoms – Yahoo Lifestyle

People stand in line to enter a restaurant on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach on June 26. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)
People stand in line to enter a restaurant on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach on June 26. (Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images)

So-called COVID parties — where people are getting together with a person who has the virus to see who can be infected — have been capturing headlines for weeks now. But some health officials and institutions have been forced to backtrack claims that the parties existed after their respective investigations turned up no evidence.

The University of Alabama tweeted in early July that the school has “been aware for weeks of the rumors about COVID parties,” but after “a thorough investigation” officials were “unable to identify any students who may have participated in these types of activities.”


In Washington’s Walla Walla County, public health officials had to walk back comments after saying in a May press release that they had “received reports of COVID parties in our community” and urging people to stay away. officials there later said, per KIRO-TV, that they now believe the parties were innocent gatherings.

Even the recent story of a 30-year-old Texas man who died after reportedly attending a COVID-19 party has been questioned. Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer for Methodist Hospital and Methodist Children’s Hospital, said in an interview with San Antonio local news station KSAT that the unidentified patient told his nurses about the party. “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not,” she says the patient told a nurse before he died. But the New York Times spoke to contact tracers in San Antonio who said they had didn’t have any information “that would confirm (or deny)” that this party happened. Appleby did not provide additional details to the outlet, but she said she wanted to share the story to warn other people about the dangers of the virus. 

While reports of COVID parties have been called into question, what isn’t disputed is that people who test positive for COVID-19 or who have symptoms of the virus are going to parties anyway. Thomas Macias, 51, died of the virus in late June after attending a party in California alongside a friend who had tested positive for COVID-19. His brother-in-law, Gustavo Lopez,  told NBC News that Macias’s friend was aware of his diagnosis when he went to the party but didn’t think he could infect anyone else because he didn’t have symptoms. And in May a cluster of COVID-19 cases was linked to a Pasadena, Calif., birthday party where a woman was coughing. “She was joking with people at the birthday party,” Lisa Derderian, a spokeswoman for the city of Pasadena, told CNN. “She said, ‘I may have COVID-19,’ and lo and behold, she did.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared a similar story Tuesday on Twitter. “Here’s a true story about how quickly COVID can spread,” he wrote. “At a 4th of July party in Suffolk County, at least one person was positive. Since the party, 35% of the people who attended have tested positive for COVID. It only takes one person at one party. Wear a mask and be smart.”

That’s the point infectious disease experts are stressing too. “We still don’t know a lot about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and how it spreads,” Dr. David Cennimo, assistant professor of medicine-pediatrics infectious disease at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Yahoo Life. There are questions about whether the virus can be airborne — something the World Organization (WHO) recently said it’s investigating. “Small, enclosed places with a lot of people in it are risky — and that’s the standard description of a party,” Cennimo says. “I would not go to a party.” 

That should especially be the case for people who test positive for the virus or who have symptoms of the virus, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “If you’re positive — even if you don’t have symptoms — you can transmit the virus,” he says. “You’re contagious and can give this virus to other people. And, for goodness sakes, you should be quarantining yourself and people should be wary of being near you.”

It’s important, too, to remember that the chain of transmission doesn’t stop at a party. “Whenever someone is infectious and goes anywhere without a mask or is not practicing social distancing, not only can they infect people they may perceive as less vulnerable, but those people come into contact with other individuals who will infect other people,” Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, tells Yahoo Life. “It becomes a ripple effect.”

Even people who have mild symptoms can have lingering aftereffects of the virus, making it not so mild after all, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life. “We don’t know the long-term damage that might result,” he says. “People should be focusing on doing everything they can to not get infected.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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