Alarming 'mom code' trend urges parents not to test kids for COVID-19

Oct. 29, 2020

Parents desperate to keep kids in school despite the threat of COVID-19 may be resorting to a dangerous tactic. Some are reportedly using social media to encourage people not to have their sick kids tested for COVID-19 so they can reduce reported case numbers and keep schools open.

Screenshots of messages in a Georgia high school parents group show moms talking about avoiding testing sites so kids can continue to go to in-person classes. “For the love of God, please stop testing for COVID,” one parent writes. “If your child is sick, keep them home. There is no cure or meds. Too many students with zero symptoms are suffering.”

ABC News reports similar conversations are taking place among parents in Davis County, Utah, where some moms are allegedly promising to adhere to the “mom code” by taking pledges not to test their children for the virus. 

In many areas, classes are forced to quarantine when a student tests positive, and too many positive cases can result in school closures. In Davis County, for example, a positive test will result in a 14-day quarantine for the student’s class, with all kids moving to remote learning for the duration. A school outbreak of 15 or more cases could result in a temporary move to 100% distance learning.

Parents who don’t see COVID-19 as a threat are trying to avoid those consequences; however, they’re ignoring the risks that skipped COVID-19 tests can pose on other people. 

Dr. Amy Baxter, a pediatrician and the CEO and chief medical officer at Pain Care Labs, tells Care.com there are a number of reasons to get kids tested if they’re exhibiting symptoms or you think they may have been exposed. “First, you'll know how much to protect your own family if it's positive, and be relieved if it's negative,” she explains. 

While young children appear to have milder symptoms of COVID-19 and are less likely to suffer severe complications from the virus, it’s important to know when kids have it so you can protect other people. “You definitely want to protect the teacher — this is a civic duty,” Baxter says. “If the teacher gets it, your kid will be much more impacted than just being remote. And if your kid spreads COVID, by the time one of the other kids' parents gets their kid tested, it will have spread far enough to keep ricocheting and shutting down not just your class but perhaps the whole school.”

The “mom code” trend has upset many parents who are doing their best to stop the spread of the virus and protect their families. “This type of crap is exactly why I refuse to send my child back to school,” one parent writes on Twitter. “I can’t afford for my child to bring it home with him.”

Another person says their child attends school in Cherokee County, Georgia, and they’ve actually been impacted by parents and children hiding their positive test status. “I lost my cool this week when I found out two kids on my daughters sports team tested positive and refused to tell anyone,” they write.

Though parents and kids are anxious to get back to normal, the pandemic is far from over in the U.S. More than half of U.S. states actually broke records for new COVID-19 cases in October, according to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, and the country is averaging about 70,000 new cases per day.

Hiding the virus won’t stop it from spreading. The only proven ways to stop the spread are by wearing masks, avoiding close contact with others, staying home when sick and notifying people who may have been exposed to you so they don’t pass the virus on to others if they have it. In short, says Dr. Baxter, “Get tested. Nip the spread in the bud.”

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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