The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has reached nearly every continent around the world, claimed thousands of lives and damaged the global economy. After months of lockdowns and closures to contain the spread of the virus, many countries are finally seeing a reduction in cases and are starting to open up and allow people to leave their homes and even get together in small groups. Unfortunately, a few have begun throwing what are called coronavirus parties.
Despite beginning to take steps to resume normal life and restart the economy, the situation in the United States has not been improving, and in many states, has actually been getting much worse. One of these states is Alabama, where there have been almost 44 thousand confirmed coronavirus cases and more than one thousand people have died as of July sixth .
As cases continue to rise in the state at an alarming rate, however, not all of its citizens seem very concerned. This is particularly true for the younger generation, and it is now confirmed that Alabama teens have been throwing “coronavirus parties”, with the goal of becoming infected with the deadly disease.
Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama have been throwing “COVID parties”, in which people who have tested positive for the virus are encouraged to attend with the goal of infecting the others at the party. Attendees pay to go to the party, and whoever is the first to receive a positive coronavirus test from a doctor afterward wins the money that was collected .
At first, officials thought that this was just a rumour, but Tuscaloosa fire chief Randy Smith has also confirmed the behaviour. There have been several of these parties within the city and surrounding area, as well as many more that the authorities are unaware of.
Young People and COVID-19 Risk
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, early data suggested that it was predominantly older adults and those with underlying health conditions were the most at risk. The general thought was that if you were young and healthy, you could still get the virus but it would likely be mild.
As the virus continued to make its way across the planet, more data began emerging that showed even young adults were getting infected, with some requiring hospitalization and even intensive care .
Even still, the majority of severe cases of the virus are still being seen in older populations. The problem with this, however, is that as more young people begin contracting COVID-19, even if they just end up with a mild case, they could very likely pass it on to a more vulnerable person in their family or community.
Doctor Mathew Heinz, whose been treated COVID-19 patients at the Tucson Medical Center in Arizona, wants young people to understand how serious this could be for them, as well as their loved ones who are in their sixties, seventies, and older.
“It’s important that these folks understand that they are part of the solution, so we need their help with following the masking guidelines, social distancing, and being aware,” he said .
Young People Fear Social Isolation more than COVID-19
The novel coronavirus has now begun infecting more people in the teens and twenties in the United States than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, however there is a dissonance between young peoples’ desire to be social and hang out with their friends and the risk of getting sick.
Depression and anxiety have been on the rise in younger populations over the last several decades, and although there is concern about the virus, many young people are even more worried about the effects isolation will have on their mental health.
“A lot of people are calling attention to coronavirus because it’s right in front of us,” says 18-year-old Audrey who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But at the same time, teens’ depression rate — it’s a silent threat.” 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that almost half of people between the ages of 18 and 29 report feeling symptoms of anxiety and depression, and sucide is the second leading cause of death for people under the age of 35 .
Psychologist Lisa Jacobs explains that it’s not that young people don’t care about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that their calculation of that risk is different from older generations.
“They are appropriately realizing that isolation is a risk for them as well — it’s a risk factor for depression, and depression is a risk factor for suicide.” 
Many young people, who have grown up in a climate crisis and with school shootings being the norm, are asking why no one has gone to extreme measures to protect them in those scenarios, but now they are being asked to go to great lengths to protect others.
Additionally, young people are missing a larger percentage of what used to buffer them during times of stress. Older people have had more time to develop strong social networks and find partners who can help them through a crisis, but young people have not had that chance, so they are disproportionately affected by social isolation .
COVID-19 Parties Being Cancelled
While there are many young people across the country, such as Audrey, who are trying to socialize safely by wearing a mask, keeping their distance and washing their hands, the students attending these parties are deliberately putting themselves and their families at risk. The city of Tuscaloosa is working at informing the public about these parties and breaking them up, and this week there is a mandatory mask order being put in place.
“This is not political. This is a public health issue. People are dying and there is no cure. We have to do whatever we can to save as many lives as possible,” said McKinstry .
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