A Texas doctor shared the heartbreaking story of a 30-year-old patient who died after apparently attending a "COVID party" and said he regretted thinking the virus was a "hoax."
As coronavirus cases continue to spike in hot spots around the United States, Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at Methodist Healthcare in San Antonio, said she wanted to share the story as a warning that the virus should be taken seriously.
"This is a party held by somebody diagnosed by the COVID virus and the thought is to see if the virus is real and to see if anyone gets infected," Dr. Appleby said in a recorded statement shared with NBC News' San Antonio affiliate.
"Just before the patient died, they looked at their nurse and said 'I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it's not,'" Appleby said.
She did not provide additional details about the deceased patient, however she issued the warning as Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, continues to see a spike in new cases.
On Friday, the county had 18,602 total cases and 166 deaths. It also reported 923 new coronavirus cases, according to an update from the City of San Antonio.
Officials have been warning about coronavirus parties for months, however it's unclear whether the events are simply gatherings of people ignoring social distancing rules, or whether there is a competitive nature to the events to see who catches the virus first.
In May, health officials in Washington's Walla Walla County attributed a rise in cases to people attending gatherings to see if they get infected.
Earlier this month in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a fire chief Randy Smith warned city council about local coronavirus parties. City Council member Sonya McKinstry told NBC affiliate WVTM in Birmingham that money is collected at the parties and that whoever gets the coronavirus first wins the cash.
However, the state Public Health Department said Thursday that it has not been able to confirm the coronavirus parties, but warned people violating local orders could face penalties.
Appleby said her reason for sounding the alarm is she wants people to know the virus doesn't discriminate against anyone.
"I don’t want to be an alarmist," she said. "We’re just trying to share some real-world examples to help our community realize that this virus is very serious and can spread easily."