The University of Alabama says for weeks, it has been aware of "rumors" of students throwing "COVID parties" – where attendees allegedly try to intentionally infect each other with the coronavirus – but the school has not been able to confirm the reports.
"We conducted a thorough investigation, and although we have been unable to identify any students who may have participated in these types of activities, we will continue to follow up on any information we receive and educate our students about essential precautions," the university said in a statement on Thursday.
The school also said it fully expects students to "safeguard their personal health and safety and that of everyone at the university and in our city" if on-campus activities are to resume.
The statement comes after officials in Tuscaloosa, where the college is located, said students in Alabama threw COVID-19 parties where infected students were invited and there was a contest over who would get it first.
"The one thing that we have seen over the last few weeks is parties going on throughout the county ... at several locations, where students or kids would come in with known positives," Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith said at a briefing on Tuesday.
"We thought that was kind of a rumor at first, and then we did some additional research," he said. "Not only did the doctors offices help confirm it, but the state confirmed they had also had the same information."
Smith said it has been difficult tracking how many students have been infected, especially because some have out-of-state addresses and just go to school in Alabama.
Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry told news outlets that students not only intentionally invited infected people to the party. "They put money in a pot and they try to get COVID. Whoever gets COVID first gets the pot. It makes no sense," McKinstry told ABC News. "They're intentionally doing it."
CBS News reached out to McKinstry, Smith and Mayor Walt Maddox for more information.
According to Alabama Public Health, there have been 41,362 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. At least 2,188 of those cases are in Tuscaloosa County and since March 13, there have been 2,883 coronavirus-related hospitalizations statewide. There have been 42 confirmed deaths in the county, according to the department of health.
During a city council meeting Tuesday, officials passed an ordinance requiring that face masks be worn in public to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
for more features.