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“COVID parties”: Almost certainly an urban legend

There have been stories of “COVID parties,” where young people intentionally try to catch COVID-19. They are almost certainly urban legends.

Today I’m going to write about something that’s been bugging me for a couple of months now. It’s a topic that’s more of a discussion of general skepticism and critical thinking, but it’s useful to discuss, as it’s about COVID-19 stories that are, at best, implausible, unproven, and unlikely, and, at worst, urban legends. I’m referring to the phenomenon known as “COVID parties”. No doubt you’ve seen several news stories about so-called “COVID parties”, in which people allegedly gather in order to intentionally catch SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. There are even variants of the story where there is a cash prize for the person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 first after such parties. I’m also going to distinguish a “COVID party” of this sort from your basic run-of-the-mill party where masking and social distancing are not followed but the intent is not to catch COVID-19; these parties are more due to recklessness and heedlessness of the danger from coronavirus, not due to an intention to catch the disease, such as appears to be the case with underground parties in New York City.

What got me to write about his was one such story on TV a week ago from ABC News, and it followed a familiar template:

From the text of the story:

“I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”

Those were the final words of a 30-year-old patient who died at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio this week after attending a so-called “COVID party,” according to the hospital.

Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer for Methodist Hospital and Methodist Children’s Hospital, said in a recorded statement that the unidentified patient told nurses about the party, which she said is hosted by someone diagnosed with coronavirus.

“The thought is people get together to see if the virus is real and if anyone gets infected,” Appleby said.

Let’s look at another such story. This one was promoted by a former Florida Health Department geographic data scientist named Rebekah Jones who was fired in May after, according to her account, refusing to “manipulate” COVID-19 data to justify reopening and set up a new data dashboard called Florida COVID Action in order to counter the state’s numbers, which she deemed inaccurate and manipulated in order to make the situation in Florida seem less severe. (Obviously, the state’s response denies this.) In any event, here’s the story:

In response to national reporting on the issue, the original Story about Carsyn Leigh Davis on Florida Covid Victims has been altered. Thankfully, the almighty Wayback Machine at Archive.org still exists, allowing me to go back to the original story. By way of background, Carsyn had multiple severe health issues, including an autoimmune disorder and cancer, which she had survived at the time of contracting COVID-19.

Here’s the story as originally published:

With all the public articles relating to this poor girl’s death on June 23, and all the interviews done with Carsyn’s mother, why did so many fail to ask her why and how Carsyn got sick?

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement detailed the last two weeks of Carsyn’s life in a public Medical Examiner’s report.

On June 10, Carysn’s mom, Carole, took Carsyn, a 16-year-old girl who was immuno-compromised with a history of health issues (including cancer), to a “COVID party” at her church, where more than 100 children without masks were in attendance.

Her mom, who is not a doctor, then prescribed her daughter azithromycin, an anti-bacterial drug with no known benefits for fighting COVID-19, for several days. During that “treatment period,” Carsyn developed headaches, sinus pressure and a cough.

A few days later, without taking her to a doctor, her mother would later report that her daughter “looked gray” on June 19, so she put Carsyn on her grandfather’s oxygen machine.

Ultimately:

Carsyn immediately worsened and was finally taken to medical professionals where she admitted to the Pediatric ICU.

When she couldn’t breathe on her own, her mother declined intubation.

The hospital began plasma therapy on June 20-21, but the damage to Carsyn’s cardio-respiratory system was too severe and she was ordered to be intubated on June 22. She died the next day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. What Carsyn’s mother, Carol Brunton Davis, did was incredibly irresponsible. She brought her daughter to a church party with roughly 100 children, where masks were not worn and social distancing was not enforced. But is this evidence that Carsyn had attended a “COVID party”? It turns out that, if you read the actual coroner’s report that was referenced in Jones’ original post, it was not. All the report says about how Carsyn contracted COVID-19 is this:

On June 10, the decedent attended a church function with 100 other children. She did not wear a mask. Social distancing was not followed. The parents prophylactically treated her with azithromycin (6/10-6/15).

The best that Jones could come up with was that the First Youth Church, the church that hosted the party, called the party a “Release Party”:

So, there was no evidence that this was a “COVID party”. Was it irresponsible—reckless, even—to hold such a party? Yes, definitely. The church was in essence asking for a COVID outbreak by hosting such a party, and the mother was irresponsible in the extreme to have allowed her immunocompromised daughter to attend such a party. However, say what you will about the extreme recklessness of it all, there is no evidence of intent to intentionally catch COVID-19. Indeed, the fact that the mother “prophylactically” treated her daughter with azithromycin is strongly suggestive that her intent was to prevent her daughter from contracting COVID-19, given that azithromycin has been touted, in combination with hydroxychloroquine, as a very effective treatment for COVID-19 by a group that includes a “brave maverick” French Doctor named Didier Raoult, as well as Donald Trump, his economic advisor Peter Navarro, and even Dr. Oz. (The girl’s parents later treated her with hydroxychloroquine as well after she developed symptoms. Her father is a physician’s assistant and could thus prescribe the drug.) Remember, “COVID party” implies that the idea is similar to measles parties, namely that the attendees contract the disease in order to “get it over with” and become immune. Even if the church did say that whether one caught COVID-19 or not is “God’s will” does not mean that there was intent for kids to catch coronavirus, although it does indicate religious-inspired indifference.

It wasn’t long before Rebekah Jones faced backlash for her characterization of a death that was horrific enough without the misrepresentation:

The case has drawn backlash from critics in the medical field after it was reported over the weekend by Florida data scientist Rebekah Jones on her Florida COVID Victims site, the Post reported. Jones describes the church function as a “COVID Party” and alleges that the teen’s mother, nurse Carole Brunton Davis, brought her to the event to “intentionally expose her immuno-compromised daughter to this virus.”

As you might imagine, I was one of those “critics in the medical field”.

These stories are not new, at least compared to the pandemic. It turns out that there are a lot of these stories, dating back to even March, when Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that at least one person in Kentucky is infected after taking part at a “coronavirus party,” with a group of young adults and partygoers intentionally getting together “thinking they were invincible” and purposely defying state guidance to practice social distancing. Note that this one sounds a bit more plausible in that there have been a fair number of gatherings among people, but, again, there is no evidence presented that this party was hosted with the intent of partygoers to become infected. It’s not just the US, either. In Belgium, Het Laatste Nieuws reported in March that many people celebrated the evening right before new lock-down rules took effect. This was clearly a “one last fling” kind of event, where one last party was held before the lockdown put a stop to parties. In Manchester, England, police had to break up 660 partiesover Easter weekend.

The first example of warnings about “COVID parties” that I could find dates back to early April, when an epidemiology professor named Greta Bauer published a New York Times op-ed, perhaps in response to the story from Kentucky, “Please, Don’t Intentionally Infect Yourself. Signed, an Epidemiologist“.

A month later, in early May, the Washington Department of Health Tweeted this, perhaps the earliest report of “COVID parties” in the US that gained wide attention:

The statement:

Washington State Department of Health officials are alarmed by reports of “coronavirus parties” in which uninfected people are mingling with COVID-19 positive individuals to try to contract the virus.

“Gathering in groups in the midst of this pandemic can be incredibly dangerous and puts people at increased risk for hospitalization and even death,” John Wiesman, Washington State Secretary of Health said. “Furthermore, it is unknown if people who recover from COVID-19 have long-term protection. There is still a lot we don’t know about this virus, including any long-term health issues which may occur after infection. This kind of unnecessary behavior may create a preventable uptick in cases which further slows our state’s ability to gradually re-open.”

DOH encourages every Washingtonian to continue to follow Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

Oops:

Rumblings had developed into rumors by the start of May, when a public health official in Walla Walla, Washington, claimed to have discovered, via careful contact tracing, that at least two patients had indeed attended “Covid parties” so as to “get it over with.” The local police chief told reporters that he wouldn’t rule out criminal charges for any other such events, but assured them that “we’re not going to overreact.” Two days later, the same public health official admitted she’d been wrong: “We have discovered that there were not intentional Covid parties,” she said. “Just innocent endeavors.”

Perhaps the most outrageous “COVID party” story so far made the rounds in the media a couple of weeks ago. It occurred in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and…well, I’ll quote a typical story about the event, with a clickbait headline, “Tuscaloosa students held parties, bet on who got coronavirus first“:

Several college students in an Alabama city organized “COVID-19” parties as a contest to see who would get the virus first, officials said.

Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students hosted the parties to intentionally infect each other with the new coronavirus, news outlets reported.

McKinstry said party organizers purposely invited guests who tested positive for COVID-19. She said the students put money in a pot and whoever got COVID first would get the cash.

“It makes no sense,” McKinstry said. “They’re intentionally doing it.” Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith confirmed the incidents to the City Council Tuesday.

The department thought the parties were rumors but Smith said after some research, the department found out the parties were real.

“We did some research. Not only do the doctors’ offices confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information,” Smith said.

I smelled BS immediately, a story that reeked of urban legend. Could such “COVID-catching” parties have happened? Possibly, although the plausibility is rather low. Whether they happened or not, the stories, like the one above and so many other stories filled with slack-jawed coverage of these alleged parties don’t provide anything resembling compelling evidence that they occurred. This particular story’s only source was a single city councilwoman named Sonya McKinstry whose claim was based on secondhand and thirdhand information, with all the “corroboration” coming from—you guessed it!—second and thirdhand reports from people without direct knowledge. No one who had attended such a party was interviewed. There was no epidemiological evidence presented, such as from contact tracers tracing COVID-19 outbreaks to such parties or data showing people attending such parties all contracted the same strain of COVID-19.

Part of what I think is going on is that media outlets have been anxious to attribute intent (specifically, intent to get infected) that is likely not there. What is there, clearly, is either indifference or disbelief that coronavirus is a threat. One might argue that that’s a distinction without a difference. After all, there might be very little practical difference between a party of people not social distancing and not wearing masks because they scoff at the virus and a party of people not social distancing and not wearing masks attending a party where people known to have COVID-19 will attend because they want to contract coronavirus, but there is a difference in the public discourse: An overwhelming desire to blame someone, to shame someone. For that, intent to become infected is much more blameworthy than indifference or denial. It’s also far more clickbaity.

As E. J. Dickson wrote in Rolling Stone about the Walla Walla story after the Washington Department of Health had walked back its claim that there had been “COVID parties”:

In other words, people had contracted COVID-19 from attending parties, but did not attend for the purpose of contracting COVID-19 — a far more believable, if not less headline-grabby, version of events. But at that point, the story of coronavirus parties had already been credulously aggregated by multiple national news outlets, and the Washington State Department of Health, however, has yet to amend its statement or its original tweet.

In a statement to Rolling Stone, the public information for the DOH said: “The state Department of Health is encouraged to hear that reports of COVID-19 parties in the Walla Walla area may not have been accurate. Unfortunately, this was not the first time we had heard that these parties may be happening locally and nationally.” She added that the department wanted to be clear that “we strongly believe COVID-19 parties can be incredibly dangerous.”

Ultimately, the coronavirus-party story went viral for the same reason that all social distancing-shaming content does: it gives people cooped up in their homes a reason to pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for their own sacrifices. There’s also undoubtedly an element of generational animosity at play here: if you believe that young people are all selfish assholes, then you’re more likely to believe that they’re gathering en masse to purposefully infect themselves with a potentially deadly virus.

Rolling Stone

So could “COVID parties” be a thing? Certainly, it’s not impossible. After all, antivaxxers have long been known to hold measles and chickenpox parties in order to intentionally infect their children to achieve “natural immunity”, although I’ve always thought that such parties are far less common than they are portrayed as being. On the other hand, although it’s possible there have been honest-to-goodness “COVID parties” in which attendees intend to become infected to “get it over with,” there is very good reason to doubt many of the stories so credulously regurgitated by the press.

And, as Gilead Edelman at WIRED put it:

It is, of course, technically impossible to rule out the existence of Covid parties. Maybe somewhere in this vast and complex nation there are some foolish people getting infected on purpose. It’s also possible that the miasma of media coverage will coalesce into a vector of its own, inspiring Covid parties that otherwise would not have happened. But so far there’s no hard evidence that even a single one has taken place—just a recurring cycle of breathless, unsubstantiated media coverage.

It’s also been noted that these “COVID party” stories share similarities with previous moral panics and urban legends. As Edelman notes:

The press just can’t stop pushing the narrative that people are trying to get themselves infected. And they always seem to push it the same way: Local reporters write down what some official said, and then national publications pick up those claims, citing the local reports as evidence. At no point in this chain has anyone bothered to confirm the underlying claim. The whole thing is reminiscent of the supposed scourge, in the mid-2000s, of “pharm parties,” at which America’s wayward teens were said to put their parents’ prescription drugs into a bowl and then consume them at random. This did not really happen.

As Dickson also notes:

There’s good reason for this, says urban folklorist Benjamin Radford: “coronavirus parties” are probably BS. “They’re a variation of older disease urban legends such as the ‘bug chaser’ stories about people trying to get AIDS,” he tells Rolling Stone, referring to a brief spate in the early-aughts when so-called “bug-chasing” parties were subject to extensive media coverage (including a controversial story by this magazine). Such stories fed into a general sense of “moral panic” over the disease, resulting in it sticking around in the public imagination regardless of the lack of supporting evidence.

Indeed, there is an element to these stories that reminds me of the satanic ritual abuse moral panic that originated in the United States in the 1980s and spread throughout many parts of the world by the late 1990s. There’s never hard evidence presented, and the press credulously lapped up lurid stories.

Why do these stories proliferate, though? I think Edelman is on to something here:

Why do these stories keep catching on? In part, it’s thanks to journalists’ long-standing and uncritical reliance on the pronouncements of public officials. These tales also reinforce existing stereotypes—anti-vaxxer hippies in rural Washington, MAGA bros in the Deep South—and may scratch a psychic itch among readers who already tend to pin responsibility for the ongoing pandemic on other people’s bad choices.

The reality is distressing enough, thank you very much. People may not be throwing Covid parties, but they are throwing parties where Covid spreads, which is just as bad.

Unfortunately, right now it’s very hard not to argue that the response of the United States to the COVID-19 pandemic has been anything other than an utter disaster. Contrary to claims that we are entering a “second wave” of COVID-19 infections, in actuality we never left the first wave. Daily case counts had been gradually falling between early April and early June, but case counts are now skyrocketing, leading to Kara Gavin at Michigan Health to say that the “COVID-19 curve has unflattened fast.” Daily case counts are climbing in at least 33 states, leading to overtaxed hospitals and intensive care units in what are currently the most hard-hit states, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.

Edelman sardonically (and quite correctly) notes that, even if COVID-19 parties were a real thing, rather than events that are likely either rare or nonexistent, even “if there really were infected frat boys pounding beers and doing snot-shots, it would hardly matter” and that their “bad behavior would be a mere sideshow” to a massive policy failure that led to coronavirus raging, in essence, out of control throughout huge swaths of the US. In the meantime, whenever you see stories about events like “COVID-19” parties, be skeptical. Look at the evidence presented. Is it just the pronouncement of a government or law enforcement official based on secondhand or thirdhand stories? Is there any other corroborating evidence of a more concrete and objective nature? So far, for every “COVID party story” I’ve seen, the answer is “no” to both questions.

I’m not ruling out the possibility that these parties happen, and maybe one day there will be an account with undeniable (or at least compelling) evidence that these parties are a thing. I have not yet seen such a story yet, and, like any good urban legend, the story of COVID parties evolve with each retelling. The latest twist? In the week since the story that got me interested in this topic. Now it’s supposedly violent gangs holding massive COVID parties in order to intentionally spread the disease. Again, the only evidence presented that there is intent to spread the virus consists of statements from officials. As Edelman noted, these stories grow with the repeating.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

95 replies on ““COVID parties”: Almost certainly an urban legend”

I have learned over the past few weeks, that suggesting I want a source for the claim of COVID parties, is equivalent to kicking puppies, and stealing candy from babies, and possibly throwing Mom’s apple pie, into her face. It is very frustrating, and I’m not even in the field of medicine.

True. Several family members, on my side and my wife’s, are all in on this. When I ask if they’re happening near them (and they are spread over more than a dozen states) the answer is always “No, but we hear about them from friends” — with the implication that therefore, the story is valid.

While I agree that we don’t have proof of intent, at this point, I think we need to say that most people attending any large party in the U.S. are highly reckless. We should by now be aware that it creates a high risk. And these people deserve to be called out on that (I know you didn’t say otherwise. I just want to call it out).

That’s not to discount your point that it’s highly problematic to claim COVID-19 parties without actual evidence.

The Swedish government thought they were on the path to achieve heard immunity several months ago. A COVID-19 party by any other name….

They tracked a KFC order that they knew was way too large.

That was a separate event in Melbourne. A ambulance office notice a customer at KFC buying 20 meals late at night and passed the car number plate on to the police.

We have had pretty serious enforcement of the rules, which has the advantage I suppose of helping improve the State Government’s bottom line.

I have no doubt that people are having COVID-themed parties, and people are having large parties with no precautions that result in infections. It’s easy to see how those could easily combine to create rumors of parties with intentional infection. The risk of the rumors is in giving people a false sense of security. “I’m not doing that so I’m okay.”

I live across an alley from a young couple in their late 20s/early 30s. My neighborhood is new and neither of us have window coverings.If they have a party I can see and hear a lot of what happens on their patio. Every few weeks they host 15-20 friends for some sort of sports party. I think it’s MMA or wrestling but truthfully, I try not to know. Last Saturday they had a big gathering and I could hear them yelling, “Gonna give you COVID bro.” as two young men wrestled. I heard COVID another time but I don’t know the context (They’re super loud). I don’t think this is a “COVID Party”. I think it’s just a complete disregard of the reality of COVID. To me, it’s gallows humor.
On another note, I think the 19,000 dollars for each COVID dx is also an urban myth but with worse consequences. I have had at least 4-5 friends say, “I have a friend and they know someone whose brother had heart disease and died but the dr. said, ‘write COVID as cause of death because we make $19,000.” This little story has made so many of my friends think the pandemic is a scam. 🙁

I had to correct my in-laws on that one as well.

Falsifying a death certificate is a crime and a doctor could lose their license, but yeah, sure, anyone’s doing that for $X. (I’ve heard a range of dollar amounts from $19,000 to just $3,600.)

I’ve got some neighbors down the street that keep having picnics and BBQs, but at this point I’m just going to ignore them. It’s not like I’m going to call the cops.

At anti-vax sites and PRN ( I know, that’s really redundant) a nostalgia for chickenpox parties of earlier eras persists. I wonder how many actual events happened in the past few years by anti-vax supporters who often communicate via social media and may not even live close to each other. Were these parties onlies something they discussed to show how much they flaunt SBM, proving how mild VPDs are? I imagine that a few deliberate attempts at infection must have happened but parties? Involving many people? I doubt it.

Do you really expect me to be perfect ALL of the time?

I’m only an android programmed by EFL speakers from Macedonia.

Then there are those ominous sounding MRSA parties where participants nick their skin in several places and roll around, naked, on the floors of public lavatories in hospitals. I never get invited to those parties.

“…participants nick their skin in several places and roll around, naked, on the floors of public lavatories in hospitals…”

Eeeeewwwwww.

We have got a whole demographic here (rural enclave of Washington State) who have publicly flaunted all advice from the beginning and continue to gather publicly,lean out of pickup windows and laugh loudly at close range wherever they congregate, including post office, market and gas station. Perhaps not an official Covid Party, but not sure I see a significant difference. Nor would I expect any of them to proclaim an official such gathering on social media as most people here don’t even have smartphones as reception is nearly nonexistent. The truly scary thing is that most of them are over 50. It is all completely political–they believe Trump. Oh, they are mostly, but not all, male. The women I’ve seen doing this are notably younger. There are only about 400 people here, so observation seems reasonably valid evidence. Another problem is how sloppy the mask-wearing is by those “forced” to do so at their jobs.

The thing they are all counting on is our isolation, but it only takes one “invader” I keep telling them (from a distance and with an N-95 mask). They never respond.

McKinstry said she fears that some people will attend the parties not knowing their intent and be exposed to infected guests.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/alabama-students-throwing-covid-parties-infected-officials/story?id=71552514

And from my only trusted name in media:

McKinstry told ABC News she fears that guests at future parties may not be aware of the true intention of the gatherings and could be exposed to the virus

https://www.foxnews.com/us/tuscaloosa-covid-parties

Ahh, the ‘ol getting suckered into it trope. “But ma, I did not know wink!”

The first time I ever saw the term ‘urban legend’ was in a Clive Barker short story, The Forbiddin (Books of Blood vol. 5). “”A university student named Helen is doing a thesis on graffiti, and selects a run-down estate to focus her study. She notices disturbing graffiti in an abandoned building that makes references to an urban legend known as the Candyman.””

When I saw the Tuscaloosa story on a local news broadcast, I was miffed, dejected, not at all surpized (‘I didn’t see that one coming’ /s) — Just more friday night frat boy crap, and never gave it a second thought as to its veracity. Orac has shaken that but I think there could be yet another ‘angle’ to consider.

I catch about 30 mins of ‘the EIB microphone’ most days and when Rush is not prevaricating, lamp shading, and gaslighting he has been straight up preaching bad health and economic policy (IMHO). The gist of it has been that the virus can’t be stopped and everybody will get it–that experts say ‘heard immunity’ that way, ‘flattining the curve’ is just prolonging that and ruining the economy, and it will majically disappear on Nov 3’rd 2020 or Nov 3’rd 2024 (whichever comes first).

For a certain group of someones for which Trump is the Chosen One, FauxSpews is The Bible, and Rush Limbaugh is the preacher… I think they may be hearing a dog whistle here.

Some things are just not supposed to be said out loud pretty much anywhere there are unfamiliar listeners or unfamiliar electronics. I mean, what is heard may be “The boys are gathering at the docks for barbecue in honor of El Cha..ahem..dad. You In? Ohh boy, I sure am! Oh, but El Menc..ahem uncle Manny has grounded me….but, If I introduce him to that hot chick, Destiny, then I’m golden maybe. Great. Invite your fat friend, Henry to. All 1540 lbs of him.

In all my years as a field agent, I was never able to divine what those polite, well armed, biff and cut young gentlemen were up to. But I’m pretty sure there is no 1540 lb dude named ‘Henry’. That’s like 700kg, man.

Likewise:

–Hey, man. You catching us at the covi..ehem rave later?
–Oh boy, I sure am!
–Great! Bring your nebu..ehemm..face masks with you. Invite Henry and Jane to.

Sweets to the sweet, Helen.

shear thickening, shear thinning.. Helmholtz can suck it. So can Kelvin.

Hmm. If Ihad a body suit made of silly putty or even colloidal corn starch, would I be bullet proof? would the transferred kinetic energy (even after heat dissipation) still stop my heart? Would it still hurt? Is there some extra tech out here that allows me to walk around weighing an extra 200 (pick your units)? I’ve really got to stop watching that inane series that Joel suggested.

@Tim: I believe that was an episode of Mythbusters.

Water works as well, and the higher-speed the projectile fired at you is, the less depth of water it will penetrate before breaking up. (Separate episode.)

shear thickening, shear thinning.. Helmholtz can suck it. So can Kelvin.

I think you may be confusing them with Navier & Stokes.

Well, damn. I’m still not working it out with a pencil. Don’t you dare drag Reynolds into this… If you do, I want a video to piss off Dough.

“Last night before lockdown” parties are reckless, but they don’t sound like people trying to get sick. I think a lot of that was people who don’t (or didn’t) believe how bad this could get, or though they could get away with it because the epicenter was in another continent, or otherwise further away.

“Two thousand zero zero, but we’ll party like it;s Nineteen-ninety-nine.” — If the world is really going to end on Tuesday, why not party? Conversely, if you think it’s still safe because the lockdown hasn’t started, and nobody you know personally has gotten sick, why not one last party? Risk assessment is hard, and nobody’s intuition works well with a situation like this, where we’re guessing at the current risk label based on information about whether what we did ten days ago was safe.

I’m throwing no stones here: The last thing I did outside the house before we got a stay-at-home order was to buy chocolate croissants on my way home from my girlfriend’s house. (What can I say, I’ve always preferred chocolate to booze?)

The last thing I did outside the house before we got a stay-at-home order was to buy chocolate croissants on my way home from my girlfriend’s house. (What can I say, I’ve always preferred chocolate to booze?)

What devilish (nation-) state would be so draconian as to prevent access to purveyors of chocolate croissants?

(IIRC, cannabis “dispensaries” — including recreational — were put into the “essential business” file.)

I thought Timmeh was being sarcastic with the original comment. Whether he was unfamiliar with the “friend” styling, I don’t know.

OK, the second one is almost as well debunked as the Florida case where the deceased had “No pre-existing conditions, he died after a motorcycle accident”.

How about the first one, which includes Methodist Hospital and a named MD? Is that a bit of creative reporting also?

How about the first one, which includes Methodist Hospital and a named MD? Is that a bit of creative reporting also?

The “named MD” (Jane Appleby) was speaking in the language category known as the “third hand.”

We currently have an outbreak in a small town, which is connected with a pub. At this moment 24 people are infected and they expect it might be raising to 100 cases. Mostly people under 40, who probably won’t get it very bad, but still can spread it to others who are more vunerable.
Not a Covid-19 party, but just a place where people didn’t keep distance and got infected.
I still wonder what will happen in another part of the Netherlands, where there is currently a big fair. Yes, it is smaller than it is in other years, but I doubt people will always keep distance, thought it is promoted and if I look at some pictures I see people who due to their weight might suffer more.

@ Renate:

Recently, there was an outbreak in Hoboken** that was traced to a wedding in SC which some residents travelled to and then returned. Otherwise, the area has been doing well.: numbers decreasing, restrictions being slowly lifted since May.

** the hipster capitol of the East-
and yes, the name has Dutch ( and Native) etymology.
It was once part of Nieuw Amsterdam. e.g. Harlem/ Haarlem etc.

Thank you! I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that the Covid party stuff doesn’t pass the smell test. If these 20 somethings were so interested in herd immunity, why aren’t they just gathering to have an openly sick peer cough in their face. There are certainly plenty to choose from.

Ms. Jones was given a pass for her popular efforts to call Florida’s numbers into question. But why would a “Release Party” refer to the “release” of the virus, which is very strange verbiage. Teens being “released” from lockdown or quarantine, especially if it is viewed as an unjust virtual incarceration forced by the state, is how people actually talk.

As far as the house parties, these are Covid parties only in the sense they are occurring during Covid times, are reckless and may end up infecting party goers. It is not the reason they are being held.

It makes perfect sense that bungling Florida politicians would try to pass the blame to nefarious “teens” and “gang parties” rather than the revenue generating tourism industry. And if they can include overtly racist language to vilify these young adults further, all the better.

Disney has gotten a fairly free pass considering how private citizens have been publicly humiliated and the deaths of Covid deniers ghoulishly publicized in some social media cess pools.

Disney has shown themselves to be as morally bankrupt as any drug cartel, choosing money over human lives. They are no more reopening to bring joy and jobs to the masses than drug traffickers are importing heroin to help provide pain management alternatives and employ marginalized teens.

Florida is working overtime to blame Gen Z and absolve tourists and residents pumping money into the economy. Comparing the nearly worthless numbers from March and February to prove the average age used to be 65 and is now 35 is just one example. DeSantis quoting the nearly useless mode metric to take advantage of the General population’s innumeracy is another.

There is plenty of blame to go around to all age and racial groups when it comes to mask refusal. Certain swathes of the electorate are behaving much worse than others. And although some activities may end up functioning as the Covid party of myth, these diversions are not occurring because of an overriding interest in immunity.

Note well, sceptics:

RI’s resident scoffer, CK, agrees with Orac about a relatively minor point ( Covid urban legends) that is of little consequence BUT endlessly describes vaccines as causing ASDs or SIDS and supporting various anti-vaccine beliefs whilst telling nightmarish stories that conceivably might influence young parents’ decisions about vaccination.
Orac is a powerful defender of vaccination who tirelessly battles misinformation about medicine and science being especially concerned with how myths about health spread through the internet
CK is not a supporter of SBM because she rejects the bulk of international vaccine research and actively works against it, using social media to influence others’ choices.
Often, woo-meisters, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists** pepper their swill with facts so as to show how ‘realistic’ or science based they are to get audiences on their side, as they then recite the most outlandish ideas, theories and florid reminiscences.

An alt med proselytiser might describe the value of eating fruits and vegetables and then relate how all animal based products are truly poisonous.

** both John Oliver ( Last Week Tonight) and Zareed Zakaria ( CNN) explored the rise of conspiracy theories as a way of life in the past few days. Easy to find on the net

@ Denice,

Lol, I DO agree with Orac on this & the media’s penchant for click-bait gossip during a pandemic, when we need real information isn’t a minor issue; it’s a valid concern.

I’m under the impression that you specialize in social science, not medical; so this should not be viewed as “minor’ by those such as yourself in your field.

This was also a topic of special interest for me, as a daughter will be returning to CU in Boulder in a few weeks & “CU frat houses” have been disciplined for holding parties recently & guess how they pop up on all her social media accounts? “Frat house COVID parties”. Yet, no evidence that “catching COVID” was the goal, just seemed more like “in your face; COVID” parties.

They are not the same.

Yes, I disagree with Orac on vaccines. I don’t blame him, I don’t accuse him of “lying”, I simply understand that he is extremely important to the CDC narrative & as such; he will be the last to know.

Yes, Orac is vital to the CDC/FDA/BLM*/PharmaIlluminati disinformation campaign**, but to be truly effective he’s required to sit in on meetings with the top Cabal brass, otherwise he can’t collect his $100-a-word blogging fee*** or take Vaccine Safety Falla-Seas cruises.

*Bureau of Land Management
**a.k.a. “systemic pressures”
***I got bumped up to $30 a word after threatening to take my talents over to the Fluoridation Conspiracy.

Meanwhile, several of your claims have been proven blatantly false, such as your claim that non-polio paralysis in India was paralytic polio caused by the vaccine.

But scientists have also recently discovered that some people can test negative for antibodies against Covid-19 and positive for T cells that can identify the virus. This has led to suspicions that some level of immunity against the disease might be twice as common as was previously thought.

Most bizarrely of all, when researchers tested blood samples taken years before the pandemic started, they found T cells which were specifically tailored to detect proteins on the surface of Covid-19. This suggests that some people already had a pre-existing degree of resistance against the virus before it ever infected a human. And it appears to be surprisingly prevalent: 40-60% of unexposed individuals had these cells.
.
.
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The central role of T cells could also help to explain some of the quirks that have so far eluded understanding – from the dramatic escalation in risk that people face from the virus as they get older, to the mysterious discovery that it can destroy the spleen.
.
.
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“Looking at Covid-19 patients – but also I’m happy to say, looking at individuals who have been infected but did not need hospitalisation – it’s absolutely clear that there are T cell responses,” says Hayday. “And almost certainly this is very good news for those who are interested in vaccines, because clearly we’re capable of making antibodies and making T cells that see the virus. That’s all good.”

There is a catch, however. In many patients who are hospitalised with more serious Covid-19, the T cell response hasn’t quite gone to plan.

“Vast numbers of T cells are being affected,” says Hayday. “And what is happening to them is a bit like a wedding party or a stag night gone wrong* – I mean massive amounts of activity and proliferation, but the cells are also just disappearing from the blood.”

One theory is that these T cells are just being redirected to where they’re needed most, such as the lungs. But his team suspects that a lot of them are dying instead.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200716-the-people-with-hidden-protection-from-covid-19

calling u/JustaTech

*that’s an interesting way to spell “they’re getting fckd.”

I’m flattered!

So, here’s the thing about T-cells. It’s complicated, I hope I explain it correctly, and everyone else, if I miss something please! Correct me!

So, T-cells. The way T-cells work (in a broad and imprecise sense) is that they have lots of receptors on their surface. Most of those receptors are general cell stuff, but the one we’re going to talk about are called T-Cell Receptors (TCRs).

TCRs bind to antigens that have been expressed by a different cell in a different kind of molecule (MHC). The way TCRs are made is by basically random rearrangement of the arms of the receptor by genetic recombination.

Once a cell matures into a mostly-adult T cell it’s sent to the thymus where any cell that expresses a TCR for any part of a “normal” “self” cell is killed. (This is to prevent autoimmunity.)

The weird and wacky thing is that you have to have randomly made a T cell with a TCR that recognizes an antigen in order to get a T-cell based immune response. Like, by chance. And then that T cell needs to live long enough to still be around when you encounter that antigen, and also be physically near the other cell that is presenting that antigen. Which is a lot of chance.

But it works, because we’re not all dead.

And the body does make a crapton of T-cells, all the time. Like, I can take out a billion or so of your T-cells and you’ll have made new ones to replace them in a couple of weeks.

The other thing about TCRs is that they’re not always super specific. And since SARS-CoV-2 is a corona virus, and lots of people have been exposed to other corona viruses, it’s perfectly reasonable that some people would have TCRs for the bits of COVID that are similar to other corona viruses.

Is that helpful?

Helpful. Yes (I don’t have a clue, this is not my bag, baby), I think it is interesting, at least. But I hear they are super hard to study. Surely all the differing protein structures and interactions can not be mapped like with dyes? There are trillions of combinations.

Any good way to stimulate the thymus gland to do better?

Or, can the thymus be stacked like batteries? Under the sternum; owwie to get to. But does it have to be there? Couldn’t it be hung like where the appendix goes?

They’re accepting convalescent plasma donations all over the place now; What about organ-donation of a thymus primed and ready to go?

One of the few good things to come out of the AIDS pandemic is that the technology to study T-cells has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 30+ years.
Flow Cytometry is where it is at! Now there are instruments that can do 14 color panels, where in the 90’s it took something the size of three filing cabinets to do just two colors.

Flow is reasonably complicated (I think there are some fun videos out there) but the general idea is that you make an antibody to the specific molecule you want to study (let’s say CD3, the standard identification marker for all T-cells). On one end you’ve got the binding end of your antibody, and on the other end you’ve got a fluorescent dye. You stain your cells (which has gotten easier as the antibodies have gotten less light-sensitive) and then run them single-file past a bunch of lasers and detectors. Each laser lights up a specific wavelength of fluorescent dye, and then that’s detected by the detector. But you can dye any given cell with several antibodies.

So I can look at my results and say that these specific cells are this big and this granular and glow this much red and that much green and only a little blue so that means that what I’m looking at is an activated CD8 T-cell with a receptor specific for the envelope protein of HIV. (Yes, that’s a very specific example, but it’s what I used to do.)

The cool thing is because it’s not just a dye but a dye-antibody conjugate, you can make an almost infinite number of fluorescing antibodies. The only thing you’re limited by is the number of things you can look at at once, because of the number of dyes on the market and the number of lasers in your instrument.

I don’t know why you’d want the thymus to do better, it’s generally very good a weeding out T-cells that recognize “self”. (There are many, many ways to have auto-immunity problems, T cells are just one of them.) And I don’t think it has anything to do with the COVID response.

Thx, Justatech.

So I can look at my results and say that these specific cells are this big and this granular and glow this much red and that much green and only a little blue so that means that what I’m looking at is an activated CD8 T-cell

Neat. That sounds a little bit like optical minerology. Makes me want to see if The Simpsons may have done a The Curious Life of T’s For Occasional Gamers episode. 😷

My thymus (the what now?) fetish came from the article:

“It’s an attractive observation, in the sense that it could explain why older individuals are more susceptible to Covid-19,” says Hayday. “When you reach your 30s, you begin to really shrink your thymus [a gland located behind your sternum and between your lungs, which plays an important role in the development of immune cells] and your daily production of T cells is massively diminished.”

T cells begin as hematopoietic precursors from the bone-marrow, and migrate to the thymus, where they are referred to as thymocytes. In the thymus they undergo a process of maturation, which involves ensuring the cells react against antigens (“positive selection”), but that they do not react against antigens found on body tissue (“negative selection”). Once mature, T cells emigrate from the thymus to provide vital functions in the immune system.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thymus#T_cell_maturation

So, like T-cell school? Maybe they can’t get there in the first place because of some kind of hoax lockdown to make Trump look bad before the election.

Do not forget as you get older the thymus basically turns into a non-functioning lump of fat, thus T-cell function in older humans is impaired.

So vaccines for older adults will basically be uselless, the antibodies disappear after a few months and T-cells are junked.

@ DB,

"Yes, Orac is vital to the CDC/FDA/BLM*/PharmaIlluminati disinformation campaign**, but to be truly effective he’s required to sit in on meetings with the top Cabal brass, otherwise he
can’t collect his $100-a-word blogging fee*** or take Vaccine Safety Falla-Seas cruises.

I didn’t say Orac is vital to the CDC’s vaccine campaign because he’s “in on something” or a paid shill, because he is not in on anything, nor he is he a paid shill. That’s what precisely makes it so important that he not know; because then none of that is necessary. He is a sincere advocate & a conspiracy cannot survive with ‘many doctors’ in on anything. Or many of any walks of life being in on anything. Do you think the doctors who smoked in the 1950s were shills? Do you think they really knew better; that smoking caused lung cancer but that they were on Big Tobacco’s dime so they just kept it all a secret?

They weren’t. They believed the handful of “experts” at the top that WERE shills & they died of lung cancer from smoking (like my grandpa, a physician who was also a smoker), like everybody else did.

Well yes. People who new smoking caused lung cancer still smoked, because it was addictive. Like my mother who quit smoking at least 10 times that I remember, but alas the last time was too late and she died of lung cancer at 60.

And who were these shadowy “experts at the top” who led physicians and everyone else to slaughter for the sake of filthy lucre?

(crickets)

Not getting anywhere with this, I know, but still it’s over 60 words and more than $1800 in $hillbucks for me. Mansion upkeep is expensive, ya know (it’s not easy keeping up the former Wakefield estate in Austin, including repairing all the old bullet holes and other Thoughtful House party damage).

Right, Orac isn’t intelligent/ well informed/ insightful/ worldly enough to discern nefarious plots that make use of his abilities and position against his will despite studying history, medicine, chemistry, anthropology, pseudoscience, conspiracies
BUT CK is.

-btw- because a person focuses upon one discipline doesn’t mean they haven’t studied intensely in other areas ( see Dr Fauci, Orac, Prof Dorit, me, other minions)

I’d also like to point out the HUGE hole in the logic of this, which is the implication that, if it hadn’t been for a misinformation campaign by tobacco companies, doctors, such as her grandfather, would not have smoked. It takes about 30 seconds looking at the smoking area outside a hospital to see that there are still physicians who smoke, even though the risks are well known and have been for decades. Why? Because people are bad at risk assessment and nicotine is really, really addictive.

Seriously, Christine, not everything bad that happens to your family is part of some medical conspiracy.

@ Terrie,

I did not say that my grandfather smoked & died from lung cancer due to a conspiracy. I was stating that doctors are more important to some narratives than lay people are.

It was important to BT that doctors endorsed & even modeled smoking, just as it is important to the CDC that doctors endorse & model vaccination. There is no conspiracy involving MOST doctors regarding vaccines because there doesn’t have to be. The believe & practice what they preach. InDOCtrination.

Except that isn’t actually what happened. Yes, a good chunk of doctors from the 30s to the 60s smoked. Because a good chunk of EVERYONE smoked. The linking of doctors to smoking during the 50s was an advertising campaign, designed to give the public the impression that doctors actually endorsed smoking, which the did not. But the campaign worked so well, people still believe that’s what happened, decades later.

A good overview of the issue is https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470496/. You might appreciate the 1930s view of the risks of smoking mentioned there. “There was—and would remain—a powerful notion that risk is largely variable and thus, most appropriately evaluated and monitored at the individual, clinical level.” Now, who do we know who comments here and is convinced vaccines should be determined at the individual, clinical level…

One of the CDC’s first national campaigns was an “anti-smoking” one – doctors in Victorian England were warning of the dangers of smoking long before then even.

Even before that, smoking tobacco was known to have risks. Heck, King James published A Counterblaste to Tobacco back in 1604.

A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.

There does seem to be a revolving door between big Tobacco shills and antivaxx grifters. Bernadine Healey moved from a tobacco science board to being Handley’s favorite scientist, and Jenny McCarthy went from decrying toxins to selling e-cigs. At least they’re consistent – money for selling lies.

Interestingly about Jenny:
she became identified as an opponent of vaccines ( not as an anti-vaxxer, she said but as being for “vaccine safety”) and ran into flack from SBM supporters when she was named as a host – and eventually, hired- on a national morning talk show.

After losing that gig, she ventured into other lucrative career stints- selling e-cigarettes, writing ( more) books, having a Sirius radio daily show, marrying a singer, doing reality television with him and his actor/ chef brothers and selling mixed cocktails in bottles.

Since the talk show, she has been rather silent on vaccines. I wonder why that is?
Has seen been converted to reason OR ( my best guess) was is that large media companies and purveyors of drinks and smokes don’t relish being associated with an anti-vaxxer and science denier.
,

There is evidence that this intentional infectivication has on has been going on. In prisons. Presumably, to get released or more likely to make sure their favorite gaurds got. Because these persons were denied hand sanitizer (It contains alchohol) or face coverings (it fucks with the faceid).

Why not? They knew they were all doomed to get. Tak’em down with ya.

It should be noted that the ‘mask’ is a wash cloth since they were not allowed to wear coverings.

https://youtu.be/mBEPHqsFcUM?t=4

@ DB,

"And who were these shadowy “experts at the top” who led physicians and everyone else to slaughter for the sake of filthy lucre?"

Don’t say ‘crickets’ quite yet. First there were the members of ‘Operation Berkshire’ to control the worldwide narrative https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1118337/

But in North America there were also:

Henry Rothschild, M.D., Ph.D.; a professor of medicine at Louisiana State University, New Orleans.
Carl Seltzer; professor of public health at Harvard University
Theodor Sterling; a university research professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.
A Dr. Gardener with Microbiological Associates
Dr. Domingo Aviado; a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania

And there were more.

https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft8489p25j&chunk.id=d0e10912&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e10912&brand=ucpress

Research projects run by lawyers! Why does that sound familiar? Let me think…

Got it! Some lawyer commissioned a certain researcher to dig up evidence that the MMR vaccine caused autism. He offered a large payday, as I recall. The researcher cooked the books, as I recall, and caused a lot of mischief. Including to himself. Struck off, as I recall

If I could only remember said researcher’s name…

This was collusion of tobacco companies. Medical establishment was not involved. Actually it was against smoking.

Christine’s fantasy about a sinister “expert” cabal pulling the puppet strings of the medical profession and research establishment is not aided by listing a few people whose work was glommed onto in the late 20th century by tobacco companies to obfuscate smoking harms (even if citing the name Rothschild gives her a particular thrill)*. This effort failed precisely because it went up against a powerful evidence based consensus that smoking caused lung cancer and other diseases, including but not limited to the 1964 Surgeon General’s report.

A similar fantasy about vaccination is even more spectacularly dumb.

*There are a few Rothschilds practicing medicine in the New Orleans area to this day, which has evil connotations, or not. Which reminds me, if I ever run into Christine in person, I’ll be able to tell her where she got her shoes.**
**visitors to N.O. may get the reference.

That happened to me a long long time ago in New Orleans while there on business. Never been there before or since. The laugh was worth the dollar.

@ Aarno,

Yes you are correct but while the science debunked the narrative, it was an box of documents anonymously delivered to Stanford University that exposed the conspiracy.

It took decades though; for science to expose the truth about smoking, primarily because the Tobacco industry formed the Tobacco Research Institute, which later became the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, who employed prestigious doctors & scientists who challenged the standards of epidemiological risk.

Those same tactics are now used in vaccine safety studies. It’s the Big Tobacco playbook all over again.

Those same tactics are now used in vaccine safety studies. It’s the Big Tobacco playbook all over again.

This is a half truth. It’s not vaccine scientists that use these techniques, it is the “sceptics” who use the “fear, uncertainty, doubt” playbook laid down by Big Tobacco.

So Tobacco companies put together a conspiracy in 1976 to have doctors endorse smoking in the 1950s? Impressive.

@Christine Kincaid Perhaps you would accept that Peter Aaby is not part of great vaccine conspiracy ? He runs Bandim Health Project, Interesting thing is that Statens Serum Institut (employer of Hviid, whom I have cited many times) cosponsors this project. Hviid’s
studies show that vaccines actually prevent autism.So you should of course argue that Aaby must be totally corrupted by Big Pharma.

A quick and simple reference:
Health Effects of Tobacco/ Wikipedia/ see especially – History.

Concern about health effects goes back to Muslim physicians centuries ago, 1700s in Europe, research in early 20th Century ( US), even the Nazis avoided the dangers of smoking.

Woo-meisters and anti-vaxxers reinforce the myth that “doctors supported smoking” because it enables them to cast aspersion upon SBM.

Interestingly, a few commenters above note how lawyers are used to further corporate or personal gain ( cigarette companies, Wakefield)
Tomorrow, two lawyers, RFK jr and Alan Dershowitz will “debate” vaccines – which should be enlightening, in all of the wrong ways ( see @ gorskon) because someone who is non-SBM will represent vaccines and RFK jr will Gish Gallop histrionically around him and declare victory
Still, I’d like to witness the circus if it is available at a convenient time for me. .

Dershowitz and RFK jr on the same stage? May as well invite Jay Sekulow along and bill it as a Three Stooges reunion.

Hopefully Dershowitz will keep his underwear on.

And he’s arguing the provax side? Oh well, looks like Clash of the Creeps is ON.

@ DB,

"Christine’s fantasy about a sinister “expert” cabal pulling the puppet strings of the medical profession and research establishment is not aided by listing a few people whose work was
glommed onto in the late 20th century by tobacco companies to obfuscate smoking harms (even if citing the name Rothschild gives her a particular thrill)*

Who cares if he was “a” Rothchild, if he even was one; it is irrelevant.

@DB,

He was the first of all of them listed in that chapter, that’s all. Should I have left him out to avoid confusion?

There used to be a few Rockefellers listed in our white pages (when we had them), I suppose they hated the questions as I highly doubt they were related.

The Rockefellers too – how conveenient.

“Geneva, 1 June 2020—Through a US$ 5 million investment in Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, The Rockefeller Foundation has committed to strengthening the critical role frontline health workers play in delivering immunization services in Gavi-supported countries by providing digital tools and innovative information-sharing approaches that help them improve equitable access to life-saving vaccines.”

The Rockefellers – Bill Gates – the Rothschilds – the Vaccine Alliance – experts behind the scenes pulling Orac’s strings – professors throwing maverick students out of med school for daring to ask about vaccine injuries. Connect the dots!*

*or the hyphens.

@ DB,

Oh, FFS. Just because one shares a surname with a high-profile family doesn’t mean they are related.

The Washington Post had a science and health reporter named Anna Rothschild, who wrote some articles favorable to vaccination (she’s now with fivethirtyeight.com).

You can imagine the field day antivaxers have had with that

How have I not heard of the Corrupted Blood incident? Oh yeah, I never played. I just came across the incident from a reddit thread on the death of Herman Cain

The it’s too soon section:

https://i.imgur.com/X1BzWTs.jpg
https://i.imgur (dot) com/qMT4GK2.jpg (Sorry, Charlie (Kirk))

Intent? Sometimes. In games, at least.

The Corrupted Blood incident was a virtual pandemic in the MMORPG World of Warcraft, which began on September 13, 2005, and lasted for one week. The epidemic began with the introduction of the new raid Zul’Gurub and its end boss Hakkar the Soulflayer. When confronted and attacked, Hakkar would cast a hit point-draining and highly contagious debuff spell called “Corrupted Blood” on players.

The spell, intended to last only seconds and function only within the new area of Zul’Gurub, soon spread across the virtual world by way of an oversight that allowed pets and minions to take the affliction out of its intended confines. By both accidental and then purposeful intent , a pandemic ensued that quickly killed lower-level characters and drastically changed normal gameplay, as players did what they could do to avoid infection….

The conditions and reactions of the event attracted the attention of epidemiologists for its implications of how human populations could react to a real-world epidemic.

… Non-player characters could contract the debuff, and could not be killed by it but could still spread it to players; in effect, this turned them into asymptomatic disease carriers and a form of vector for the debuff.

Player responses varied but resembled real-world behaviors. Some characters with healing abilities volunteered their services, some lower-level characters who could not help would direct people away from infected areas, some characters would flee to uninfected areas, and some characters attempted to spread the disease to others . Players in the game reacted to the disease as if there were real risk to their well-being. Blizzard Entertainment attempted to institute a voluntary quarantine to stem the disease, but it failed, as some players didn’t take it seriously, while others took advantage of the pandemonium. Despite certain security measures, players overcame them by giving the disease to summonable pets.

One aspect of the epidemic that was not considered by epidemiologists in their models was curiosity, describing how players would rush into infected areas to witness the infection and then rush out. This was paralleled to real-world behavior, specifically with how journalists would cover an incident, and then leave the area.

…The Corrupted Blood incident has been compared to the COVID-19 pandemic, and epidemiologists who studied the Corrupted Blood outbreak are using the research from the incident to better understand coronavirus’s spread – primarily its sociological factors. Dr. Eric Lofgren, an epidemiologist and co-author of a research paper about Corrupted Blood, stated in an interview with PC Gamer that “When people react to public health emergencies, how those reactions really shape the course of things. We often view epidemics as these things that sort of happen to people. There’s a virus and it’s doing things. But really it’s a virus that’s spreading between people, and how people interact and behave and comply with authority figures, or don’t, those are all very important things. And also that these things are very chaotic. You can’t really predict ‘oh yeah, everyone will quarantine. It’ll be fine.’ No, they won’t.” Griefing, such as players intentionally spreading Corrupted Blood to others, was one of the aspects of the Corrupted Blood study that has been criticized as lacking a real-world basis; Dr. Lofgren expressed in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic that “one of the critiques we got from a lot of people, both gamers and scientists, was over this idea of griefing, … How griefing isn’t really analogous to anything that takes place in the real world. People aren’t intentionally getting people sick. And they might not be intentionally getting people sick, but wilfully ignoring your potential to get people sick is pretty close to that. You start to see people like ‘oh this isn’t a big deal, I’m not going to change my behavior.’ … Epidemics are a social problem… Minimizing the seriousness of something is sort of real-world griefing.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupted_Blood_incident

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