A health care worker arrives at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, June 28, 2020. A 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus was a hoax and attended a “Covid party” died after being infected with the virus, according to a Texas hospital. (Christopher Lee/The New York Times)
A 30-year-old man who believed the coronavirus was a hoax and attended a “COVID party” died after being infected with the virus, according to a Texas hospital.
The man had attended a gathering with an infected person to test whether the coronavirus was real, said Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, where the man died.
She did not say when the party took place, how many people attended or how long after the event was the man hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The man was not publicly identified.
The premise of such parties is to test whether the virus really exists or to intentionally expose people to the coronavirus in an attempt to gain immunity.
Appleby said the man had told his nurse that he attended a COVID party. Just before he died, she said the patient told his nurse: “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”
Appleby said she was sharing the story to warn others, especially in Texas, where coronavirus cases are surging.
There were 8,332 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the state Saturday, according to a New York Times database. More than 258,000 cases and more than 3,200 deaths have been recorded in Texas so far.
COVID parties are “dangerous, irresponsible and potentially deadly,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“Attending such a party may be a path to an early demise, if not chronic and unrelenting fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing and daily fevers, if you do survive,” Glatter said.
Before there was a chickenpox vaccine, people hosted chickenpox parties to infect their children with the disease, as it was thought to be more dangerous to contract as an adult.
The vaccine is the safest way to protect against chickenpox now that it is available, although some, including former Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, still allowed their children to participate in such gatherings to contract the illness.
The coronavirus does not behave like the chickenpox, Glatter said, and parties for either virus should not be held.
In Alabama, reports that students were gathering to bet on who could get infected with the virus first — with the sickened winner taking home a pot of money — led to warnings from the University of Alabama to students about the parties’ risks, although the events could not be confirmed by state health officials.
The United States recently hit a record number of new cases per day, with more than 68,000 confirmed cases Friday.
Being infected by the coronavirus has yet to be proved to provide immunity, so reinfection is possible.
In an Op-Ed article for The Times, Dr. Greta Bauer, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, warned against coronavirus parties, noting that even young people can be hospitalized and face long-term damage from the virus.
“It is important that we don’t take unnecessary risks with unknown consequences,” Bauer wrote. “If we can avoid infection, we need to do exactly that.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that people infected with the coronavirus should not attend gatherings, and that any event where people are mingling without face coverings or social distancing are inherently high risk.
A California man died from COVID-19 after going to a party — not held for the purpose of infecting its attendees — where people did not wear masks and an infected person had attended.