Texas Hospital Says Man, 30, Died After Attending a ‘Covid Party’

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 the chief medical officer at a Texas hospital.

The official, Dr. Jane Appleby of Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, said the man died after deliberately attending a gathering with an infected person to test whether the coronavirus was real.

In her statements to news organizations, Dr. 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.”

Health experts and public officials have cast doubt over whether “Covid parties” are a real phenomenon, and past reports of such parties have fallen apart or remained unconfirmed upon closer examination.

The Times could not independently verify Dr. Appleby’s account. On Monday, the San Antonio health department said its contact tracers did not have any information “that would confirm (or deny)” that such an event had happened there.

In recent days, the hospital distributed video of Dr. Appleby describing the case, along with a press statement. She did not say when or where the party took place, how many people attended or how long afterward the man was hospitalized with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. She said she was sharing the story to warn others, especially in Texas, where cases are surging.

The hospital, citing patient confidentiality rules, declined to publicly identify the man. His family did not respond to several interview requests passed along through the hospital.

Asked about skepticism about the story, Laura Breeden, a spokeswoman for Methodist Healthcare, said, “I was not there; however, Jane Appleby is our chief medical officer. I believe what she says is true.”

There were 8,332 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the state on Saturday, according to a New York Times database. Over 258,000 cases and more than 3,200 deaths have been recorded in Texas so far. At least five people between the ages of 30 and 39 have died from coronavirus in San Antonio according to virus-tracking efforts there.

Past reports of “Covid parties” have fallen apart. County health officials in southeastern Washington State reported in May that they had evidence that at least two coronavirus cases were linked to one or more so-called Covid-19 parties, then quickly reversed themselves, saying that the parties may have been more innocent gatherings.

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, but state health officials were unable to confirm the events even happened.

The idea seems to have its origin in a practice from the days before there was a chickenpox vaccine. Some parents 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, though some, including former Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, still allowed their children to participate in such gatherings to contract the illness.

A Covid party would be “dangerous, irresponsible and potentially deadly,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

“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,” Dr. Glatter said.

  • Updated July 7, 2020

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      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


The coronavirus does not behave like the chickenpox, he said, and deliberate infection with either virus is a bad idea.

The United States recently hit a record number of new Covid-19 cases per day, with over 68,000 confirmed cases on Friday.

Being infected by the coronavirus has yet to be proved to provide immunity, so reinfection is still possible.

In an Op-Ed article for The Times, Dr. Greta Bauer, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, warned against so-called 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,” Dr. Bauer wrote. “If we can avoid infection, we need to do exactly that.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that people infected with the coronavirus should not attend gatherings, and that any event where people are mingling without face coverings or social distancing is 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.

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