An unsanctioned prom and beach party has resulted in a group of Texas high school students getting diagnosed with the coronavirus and spurred calls for those affected to be banned from attending graduation.
At least 13 students from Foster High School and George Ranch High School have tested positive for COVID-19 after reportedly attending a prom event in Katy on May 28. The event was not sanctioned by the schools, and the group then spent the weekend at a beach house in Galveston, according to the Fort Bend Herald.
The parents spoke to the newspaper in order to discourage similar gatherings.
"The safety and well-being of the Lamar CISD community is always our top priority," Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, which contains the two high schools, said in a statement to TODAY.
"We are aware that some Lamar CISD families have conducted independent events and gatherings that are not associated with the District. While we do not have control over the independent decisions that individuals make, we are continuing to encourage all of our families to remain proactive in reducing the risk of COVID-19 by following the CDC recommendations on hand washing and social distancing."
The Fort Bend County Health & Human Services Department said in a statement to TODAY that it could not comment on "specific events" due to privacy laws.
"Fort Bend County Health & Human Services would like to remind everyone that transmission of COVID-19 has been linked to mass and large gatherings," the department said in the statement. "As such, we continue to follow the CDC guidance in recommending that residents to avoid mass and large gatherings."
Stories of the students testing positive have circulated among parents on email and and on a Facebook page for the unsanctioned senior prom.
"In a continued effort to update this group regarding Covid related information pertaining to our Prom: AS OF TODAY there have been more positive cases confirmed," a post reads on the Foster Senior Prom 2020 Facebook page. "It has not been confirmed if someone at Prom was positive during attendance or if it was contracted elsewhere which is a strong possibility. However I feel it is important to give you this information so that Parents can choose the plan of action best for each family. Everyone that has tested positive is doing their part to contain and treat symptoms as needed. As with anything “stories” and “gossip” are wide spread. I ask that we ALL come together as Foster Family and be kind and understanding during this situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected."
The majority of the students are recent graduates or currently attend Foster High School in Richmond, the parents told the Fort Bend Herald.
The report comes as there are currently 1,935 coronavirus patients in hospitals across the state, which is the highest total in Texas since the pandemic began. The state has had 1,830 deaths out of nearly 75,000 cases reported, according to Texas Health and Human Services.
An online petition started by an anonymous person is calling for those who attended the party and stayed at the beach house to be prevented from attending Foster High School's outdoor graduation ceremony on June 28 at Legacy Stadium in Katy.
"It will help reduce the risk of infecting all those in attendance at the graduation," the petition reads.
A sibling of a member of the Foster graduating class tweeted out a link in support of the petition.
"Sharing cuz I shouldn't have to worry about being in contact with people who show a disregard to the wellbeing of others just to have their own prom and go to the beach while attending my brother's graduation," Maritza Olivares wrote. "PS some have already tested positive for covid."
"Though I do understand that prom is a part of the "senior experience" everyone needs to consider their own safety and the safety of others," she continued on Twitter. "I'd rather not have people forced out of their graduation, but if you're sick you are a risk to others and you need to be held accountable."
Texas was also the site of a coronavirus outbreak in March after 28 students from the University of Texas tested positive following a spring break trip to Mexico.