Officials walk back statements on reported ‘COVID-19 parties’ held in Walla Walla County to spread virus

VIDEO: Health officials investigating social media post for coronavirus play date

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — UPDATE, 5/7/20: Walla Walla County has walked back their previous statements about COVID-19 “parties” taking place in the area, but are sounding the alarm over gatherings as their case count rises.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Walla Walla County continues to rise, public health officials said they have been receiving reports of COVID-19 “parties” being held in the community.

At the “parties,” noninfected people mingle with an infected person to try and catch the virus, health officials said in a news release.

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Late Wednesday, the county walked back their initial statements saying that they now believe the parties were innocent gatherings.

The state Department of Health is still alarmed by these types of reports, in Bellevue a number of KIRO 7 viewers reported spotting a similar offer for a “play date” with three contagious children recently posted on Nextdoor.

“I have three young kids who are currently contagious,” the post read. “If you would like your kids immunized, let me know and we can make arrangements for a play date.”

"Just can't be possible, others thought it was a joke,” said neighbor Heija, who told us the post was later removed. "This is not something to be trifled with and it certainly isn't an experiment to do with your kids."

The CDC said parents, in the past, have participated in “chickenpox parties” to intentionally expose unvaccinated children in hopes they would get the disease and beat it while still young and healthy.

While Walla Walla has walked back their initial statements, they’re still concerned that people are gathering whether it’s for innocent reasons or not. The state Health Department released a new statement on the growing concern: “This kind of unnecessary behavior may create a preventable uptick in cases which further slows our state’s ability to gradually re-open.”

As of 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, the Walla Walla Department of Community Health reported one death among 94 confirmed cases.

Click here for more information about the confirmed cases.

ORIGINAL STORY:

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Walla Walla County continues to rise, public health officials said they have been receiving reports of COVID-19 “parties” being held in the community.

At the “parties,” noninfected people mingle with an infected person to try and catch the virus, health officials said in a news release.

As of 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, the Walla Walla Department of Community Health reported one death among 94 confirmed cases.

Click here for more information about the confirmed cases.

“As COVID-19 cases in Walla Walla County continue to rise, health officials strongly recommend you remain vigilant with physical distancing to limit community transmission of the virus,” Walla Walla County Department of Community Health said.

The CDC said parents, in the past, have participated in “chickenpox parties” to intentionally expose unvaccinated children in hopes they would get the disease and beat it while still young and healthy.

The CDC recommends against hosting or participating in these “parties” and Walla Walla County health officials warned outbreaks could follow.

“COVID-19 parties are not part of the solution,” said Walla Walla County Department of Community Health Director Meghan DeBolt in an interview with KEPR-TV. “They are taking it in the opposite direction because that will lead to an outbreak."

Neighbors in the Bellevue area tell KIRO 7 they saw a similar offer for a “play date” with three contagious children recently posted on Nextdoor.

“I have three young kids who are currently contagious,” the post read. “If you would like your kids immunized, let me know and we can make arrangements for a play date.”

"Just can't be possible, others thought it was a joke,” said neighbor Heija, who told us the post was later removed. "This is not something to be trifled with and it certainly isn't an experiment to do with your kids."

Dr. Paul Pottinger, an infectious disease professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said there are still unknowns regarding COVID-19 and immunity.

“We are optimistic that once someone has had this infection, they’re not likely to get it again, at least for this season,” said Dr. Pottinger. “Believe it or not, it’s still early; We need more scientific evidence to back that up.”

VIDEO: COVID-19 parties reportedly held in Walla Walla County to spread virus