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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Parents Push to Hide COVID Test Results and Keep Sports Going

7 Nov, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

While some youth sports parents are protesting fall season postponements by waving signs that read, “Fear is the REAL Virus,” others are taking a step that actually could strike fear into the hearts of event owners – not to mention health officials. They’re pushing to hide the results of positive COVID tests after seeing games cancelled in some areas when test results are revealed.

The story broke in Arizona and was carried in AZCentral.com. According to the article, parents were debating whether to hide their kids' COVID-19 test results last week after at least two Phoenix-area high schools canceled football games because students tested positive.

After those games, as well as several others in neighboring districts, were cancelled, a Facebook page called “Parents in Support of 2020 Football in Arizona" was formed. It currently has more than 1,500 supporters.

Brad Schweigert, a Cave Creek resident and father of a quarterback at Notre Dame Prep, posted in the group last week, calling on parents to "manage COVID-19 testing ourselves" and keep the test results private.

"If the results are positive, then keep him away from the team and tell your coaches he needs a couple weeks off for “personal” reasons," Schweigert wrote. He believes this is the safest option. "I’ve seen several people already suggest that no players should get tested for the rest of the season. The way I see it, the plan we have laid out is a much safer and more responsible alternative," he said in the post. "I do think we must take control of this issue and manage it ourselves as a parent group," he wrote. "We have already seen the results on how this will be managed for us if we leave it up to county health and school officials."

David Hines, the executive director of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the state's largest high school sports association, told reporters the suggestion of hiding tests was “absolutely unacceptable.”

Schweigert, however, posted in the Facebook group that they'd "worked out a deal" with 360Care, a testing provider, to test football families at discounted rates, and that the tests would not be reported to the county.

Tara Thompson, the owner of 360Care, told The Arizona Republic the tests in question assess the antibody response of patients and don't have to be reported to the county like traditional diagnostic tests that are taken through nasal swabs or saliva. 

However, the article also noted, “any company that acts as a lab and is using COVID-19 tests approved by the FDA is required to report test results to the Arizona Department of Health Services, according to a health department spokesperson.”

Compounding the issue still further, according to Scottsdale Superintendent Scott Menzel, is the fact that parents themselves are required to report their children's positive diagnoses under a commitment to the district that each parent signed.

"If we can't trust that our parents are partnering with us to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their student athlete and all those that they participate with, that creates a different challenge for us," Menzel said. "We want everyone to be able to operate in community together, and that means being up front when someone's sick."

In Utah, a similar situation is unfolding. The New York Post noted that parents had begun a Facebook group encouraging families to stop testing their children in an effort to keep schools open. The movement calls testing “unnecessary,” as results could lead to school closures.

Davis County school district parents are calling it the “mom code.”

“Stay home, don’t get tested,” read one comment.

“If your child shows COVID symptoms, please keep them home but DO NOT test,” said another, according to “Good Morning America,” which obtained screenshots of the posts before they were removed from social media.

“I personally think getting tested is selfish,” read another comment, reported by Salt Lake City’s KUTV. “Because of the fact that they contact trace everyone so one person leads to 30 people that have to quarantine or worse, programs like athletics etc. are shut down. It’s mass hysteria [because] one person came in contact with another person that had the sniffles and ran to get tested! Stop the testing. Stop the Contact tracing.”

But not all parents were in those moms’ corner.

“Parents are saying, ‘Let’s not test,’ just so they don’t have to worry about shutting down the sports teams,” said parent Genevra Prothero. “I think that it is absolutely a disgrace.”

Arizona and Utah aren’t the only places where mandated testing is getting pushback. In Henderson, Kentucky, The Gleaner reported that if students wanted to participate in extracurricular activities (including sports, band, cheer and dance), they had to have a negative COVID test.

Parent response ranged from enthusiastic support to ambivalence to outright animosity about the move – the latter was often fueled by the fact that a positive test meant mandatory quarantine for everyone in the household, something that would hurt sole providers who could not work from home.

“This (COVID) testing becomes more burdensome in the effect that it would have on the family,” said one parent. “If an athlete tests positive on a drug test, their entire family is not out of work for two weeks. To me, that’s where it crosses the line in being constitutional or not.”

Other parents were bitter about the fact that athletes had to be “guinea pigs” and that they felt they were being singled out.

In Orlando, an article in The Sentinel notes the scene is much the same – football parents protesting mandatory testing of athletes. (According to the article, if Orange County athletes want to play, they must be tested – and sign a waiver which in part waives their HIPAA rights for privacy.

One parent said it was “unconstitutional,” citing, among other things, the fact that a positive test result could interfere with athletes’ pursuit of college scholarships.

“I see this as the death penalty for football,” the parent told reporters. He has started a petition that, at last count, garnered more than 500 signatures. Another relative became concerned that if a player tested positive, he would become “the laughingstock of the school and stuff.”

The district spokesman stated that fellow students should not know when a player tests positive. The student would be informed privately; the team would not be informed other than to say the student was not playing – the same protocol that is followed in the case of an injury to the player, whose injury would not be announced publicly to the team.

Some health professionals, however, are in favor of sports continuing – as long as healthful practices continue.

Dr. David M. Smith, director of youth sports medicine at the University of Kansas Health System, told reporters at USA TODAY that sports are still good for kids, particularly with safety measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and minimizing the use of shared equipment.

"I think we’re safer on the field, honestly," Smith said. "Youth are still going to get together with their friends," even if practices and games are canceled.

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