The so-called “COVID party” was held to put several healthy people in the same room as a person who had tested positive for the virus, according to Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio.
She shared the story in a video testimonial on Friday in hopes of providing some “real-world examples” to help people understand the serious threat posed by the pandemic.
“We cared for a 30-year-old patient at the Methodist Hospital who told their nurse that they attended a COVID party,” she says in a video published by various local news outlets. “This is a party held by somebody diagnosed with the COVID virus, and the thought is that people get together to see if the virus is real and if anyone gets infected.”
Appleby says the patient shared his regret with a nurse shortly before he died.
“I think I made a mistake,” the patient said, according to Appleby. “I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”
Appleby did not release the patient’s name, nor did she say when the party happened or when the man was admitted to hospital.
“This is just one example of a potentially avoidable death,” she said in the video.
Appleby added that young people shouldn’t assume they’ll be safe from the virus, as the hospital is currently treating several critically ill patients in their 20s and 30s.
She said the San Antonio area has seen an alarming rate of positive coronavirus tests, with up to 22 per cent of tests coming back positive last week. For comparison, the World Health Organization has said that countries should not reopen until that rate comes down to about five per cent or lower for a period of two weeks.
Data from Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, shows a positive rate of 13.2 per cent on Sunday only.
The U.S. has effectively un-flattened the curve of its infection rate in recent weeks amid a push from the White House and many governors to rescue the country’s economy.
The country set a record for new infections in a single day on Saturday, with 70,000 new cases in a 24-hour period. The U.S. leads the world with 3.3 million recorded cases and nearly 135,000 deaths, according to the latest count by the New York Times.
Texas has been among the hardest-hit states in recent weeks, with approximately 8,300 new cases on Saturday. The state has seen 250,000 cases and 3,200 deaths to date, the Times reports.
A handful of COVID parties have reportedly happened in recent months amid a surge in conspiracy theories around the virus on social media. The U.S. in particular has seen a spike in anti-science rhetoric, especially among conservatives who have denounced it as a hoax meant to torpedo U.S. President Donald Trump‘s re-election hopes.
The president himself has repeatedly downplayed the outbreak, blamed others for its spread and claimed as recently as this month that it will magically disappear.
On Sunday he retweeted a supportive message from Chuck Woolery, a former game show host who blamed various Trump enemies for the crisis.
“The most outrageous lies are the ones about COVID-19. Everyone is lying,” Woolery wrote, without citing any evidence. “The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to Trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”
The Trump administration has also reportedly tried to sideline and discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert who has frequently contradicted the president with his dire warnings about the virus. Fauci has also been targeted by those steeped in far-right conspiracy theories.
Doctors and health officials have universally warned against attending a “COVID party” to gain immunity or disprove the virus’ existence.
Such parties are “dangerous, irresponsible and potentially deadly,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told the Times.
“Attending such a party may be a path to an early demise, if not chronic and unrelenting fatigue, chest pain, difficult breathing and daily fevers if you do survive,” he said.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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