‘It’s irresponsible’: Washington state sees sudden rise in Covid parties

By Mario Koran

You can call them BYOC parties. That’s bring your own Covid-19.

Health officials in Walla Walla, Washington, are admonishing the sudden rise in so-called “Covid-19 parties” where non-infected guests mingle with those who have tested positive for the virus, ostensibly in hopes of speeding up the process of catching, and overcoming, the virus.

“Walla Walla County health officials are receiving reports of Covid-19 parties occurring in our community, where non-infected people mingle with an infected person in an effort to catch the virus,” the county said in a press release Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, 94 people in the county have tested positive for Covid-19, including employees who worked at a nearby Tyson Fresh Meats plant who were infected.

Some of those cases can be linked back to parties, Meghan DeBolt, director of the county’s Department of Community Health, told the Walla Walla Bulletin.

“We don’t know when it is happening. It’s after the fact that we hear from cases. We ask about contacts, and there are 25 people because: ‘We were at a Covid party’.” She added: “It’s unacceptable. It’s irresponsible.”

Washington state, hit early and hard by the coronavirus, has tallied 15,185 cases and 834 deaths that have been attributed to the coronavirus.

The idea isn’t wholly original. In years past, parents have brought children to so-called Pox parties, where children are deliberately exposed to others believed to have chicken pox.

Concerns of intentional self-infection have surfaced as health authorities around the world consider the concept of “immunity passports”, which could enable those who test positive for Covid-19 antibodies to travel or return to work more quickly.

But DeBolt says the inherent risk of intentionally exposing anyone to infection is compounded with Covid-19, in part because scientists don’t fully understand whether someone can be reinfected by the virus.

Either way, said DeBolt, those who chose to attend parties are jeopardizing public health.

“It is not an innocent endeavor, by any means. It really sets us back. In reopening the county, we look at not only total case count, but if our community is being diligent” she told the Bulletin.

DeBolt said she plans to enlist law enforcement to scour and stamp out any future coronavirus parties.

“This will delay our community being able to reopen and get our economy operating. This is stupid … Walla Walla is better than that” said DeBolt.