The Minnesota Department of Health says it is aware that parents are choosing not to test their student-athlete children for COVID-19 for fear of them missing action, and that it’s happening across the state.
“Such a choice would be a short-term decision with long-term implications," an MDH spokesperson told St. Paul's ABC affiliate KSTP. Ultimately it leads to more spread of disease, more hospitalizations and deaths that undermine [the] opening up that has happened.”
As KSTP reported, families in the Hibbing School District received a March 15 letter from the Saint Louis County Public Health Division director Amy Westbrook, which stated, “In just the first two weeks of March, we have 11 confirmed cases in youth ages 5-19, and a significant percentage of these cases are linked to athletic activities. Also disturbing, we are hearing of instances of parents intentionally avoiding getting their children tested and encouraging others to do the same.”
Westbrook told KSTP that as important as high school athletics are to families, testing is equally important in the community-wide fight against the pandemic. “We’re hearing in our communities that parents – not all parents – are holding back testing just so their kids can play one more game, or have one more day in school, those sorts of things. It’s certainly not widespread, but it is happening.
“We want to encourage parents to continue to take a responsible approach and get their kids tested when they are identified as close contact, when they have symptoms, and [that includes] family members and parents alike."
MDH sent KSTP the following guidance for students and student-athletes:
“As kids return to the classroom, we encourage families to get tested for COVID-19 every two weeks. For kids involved in any extra-curricular activities or sports where social distancing is not possible, we recommend getting tested every week and 2-3 days before games and competitions. This will help limit the spread, avoid pauses to sports, and keep kids in the classroom.”