Well, this felt inevitable: A burgeoning trend has been identified in Washington state: “covid-19 parties,” in which people intentionally crowd around a person known to be infected with the virus so that they can contract it.
A report in the New York Times says that the county of Walla Walla has confirmed that two such parties have taken place in recent weeks, and surprise! Multiple attendees have tested positive:
The prospect of infection parties for people who wish to quickly contract the disease in the hope of gaining immunity has been a fear among some health experts because the country has a long history of people choosing purposeful infection. Health officials, for example, worked in the past to halt chickenpox parties at which parents sought to expose their unvaccinated children to the disease.
In addition to the obvious risk of people who contract the virus going on to spread it to more vulnerable populations, it’s not yet clear how immunity to covid-19 works–and scientists suspect that people who have had the coronavirus may be able to contract it again. Experts warn that antibody tests are unreliable and that an eagerness by some authorities to provide “immunity passports” in order for people to go back to work is premature and ill-conceived.
“Before we embark on huge policy decisions, like issuing immunity certificates to get people back to work, I think it’s good that people are saying, ‘Hold up, we don’t know that much about immunity to this virus,’” Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist, told STAT News.
Meghan Debolt, the director of community health for Walla Walla County, told the Times that two attendees who became sick “informed health investigators that they figured they would be able to quickly recover from the virus, apparently not considering that they could then spread it to others more vulnerable [leading] to serious health effects or death.”
“They feel really bad now, knowing that they put families and friends and others at risk,” Debolt said.