Florida Sheriff Says 'Unsavory' People Are Hosting Parties to Spread COVID

A Florida sheriff said "unsavory" people are hosting parties to spread the novel coronavirus.

"They are being referred to, from what I am being told, as 'COVID-19 Parties' where they are actually getting together and they are trying to mingle to potentially spread the virus amongst each other," Russ Gibson, the sheriff for Osceola County said in an interview with WKMG News.

"A lot of times, we've been finding out that there are people here that are unsavory people that you wouldn't want in your neighborhoods. There are some gangs, that are renting these houses, and they're coming here to Osceola County," Gibson said.

Gibson said the county has seen a "tremendous spike" in confirmed cases. The Florida Department of Health coronavirus tracker shows a record 516 confirmed single-day cases in Osceola County on July 15. There are currently has 5,635 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 38 deaths attributed to the disease in the county.

The sheriff said some of the people organizing these parties are renting multiple homes for their gatherings, which can range anywhere from 50 to 400 people. While party goers are at times dispersed without much pushback, Gibson said that last week deputies had fireworks set off against them.

"Last week someone, some folks in the crowd threw some fireworks at the deputies that were there. They did the right thing, they backed out, they waited for extra resources to arrive and then we went in and took care of the party," Gibson said.

Newsweek reached out to the sheriff's office for comment, but did not receive a response back in time for publication.

Health officials have consistently said that COVID parties are extremely dangerous. Such gatherings have reportedly been sprouting up across the country. One 30-year-old man reportedly died in San Antonio, Texas after attending a COVID party, thinking the pandemic was a hoax.

"Just before the patient died, they looked at their nurse and said 'I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it's not,'" Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer for Methodist Healthcare in San Antonio, said in a recorded statement.

Yolanda Enrich, a North Carolina nurse practitioner, told KOAT Action 7 News in May she has interacted with several patients who attended COVID parties because they are not afraid of being infected.

"We have heard from a lot of patients and the community that they're unafraid of getting the virus, so people are actually out and about trying to get the virus – attending gatherings, parties – just trying to maximize their chances of exposure," Enrich said.

In Alabama, multiple University of Alabama students were also organizing COVID parties as some sort of contest to see who would get infected first, according to Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry.

"They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense...They're intentionally doing it," McKinstry said in an interview with ABC News July 1.

Generic party. The Osceola County sheriff in Florida said people are throwing COVID parties to try and get infected with COVID-19. Deagreez/Getty