Health officials in Minnesota have warned people considering holding "COVID parties" to expose themselves to the virus to think again, saying they could be playing "Russian Roulette" with their safety.
Minnesota Department of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Kris Ehresmann says the department has heard "from various sources" that there are talks of groups of people organizing such parties, "presumably to get COVID at time more convenient to them."
This is similar to the "chickenpox parties" some parents held for their children before the vaccine for the disease was approved, and apparently is now being considered for COVID among younger Minnesotans, prompting a warning during the Wednesday COVID-19 MDH briefing.
"If you're thinking, 'let's just do this and get it over with,' it's really playing Russian Roulette," Ehresmann said.
She said that while cases of COVID-19 affecting younger people aren't typically as severe, "this does not mean younger individuals do not have serious illness."
"We've had at least three deaths in healthy people in their 20s," she said. "So this is something we are very concerned about."
With the pandemic only about six months old, health officials around the world are still learning more about the effects of COVID-19.
At this stage, it's not known whether you can be re-infected with COVID-19 having already had it.
There have been early studies that suggest antibodies to the virus diminish after two months from recovery, while a study of 61,000 people in Spain found that only 5 percent had COVID antibodies, a long way from the 60-70 percent required to develop herd immunity.
The comments from MDH come in the same week that the city of Edina has warned young people to limit their exposure to others, after a surge in cases among young people in the city.
The health department confirmed that surge Wednesday, saying contact tracing found that those infected have attended house parties, bonfires, and cabin weekends, while some sports teams have reported exposures – albeit some of those infected on said sports teams have also attended house parties and cabin weekends.
Ehresmann also said there have been multiple positive cases traced back to a "very large party held in late June in Edina."
"We recognize and appreciate the mayor's admonition to young people to ensure they are practicing social distancing," she said. "We want to acknowledge as well that this surge in young people is not restricted to Edina, young people from across state are accounting for the bulk of cases in the last two weeks."
Ehresmann said bars and restaurants continue to be a "significant source of exposure" in younger people, which follows several instances of multiple cases being traced back to bars in Minneapolis, Mankato, and St. Cloud.