Some mothers in Utah have responded to a worsening COVID-19 outbreak by creating a so-called “mom code,” an unwritten agreement to keep their kids from being tested even if they’re displaying symptoms of the disease. Their goal, apparently, is to artificially depress statistics and keep schools open.
One mom told the local ABC station that she first heard about the concept last month and that the so-called “mom code” is spreading on Facebook parent groups in communities in and around Salt Lake City with posts like “Stay home, don’t get tested!” and “If your child shows COVID symptoms please keep them home but do not test.”
This, to be clear, is wretched advice. “Frequent testing allows rapid identification of children with COVID and their restriction from school and sports activities, and this containment actually reduces the rapid spread,” virologist Dr. Larry Corey said. “Frequent testing can actually start to contain outbreaks and move to opening more schools and keeping them open.”
In the absence of adequate childcare and economic support, these moms are clearly desperate to avoid another school shutdown like the one that happened last spring. But while the school shutdowns presented a lot of logistical challenges, public health experts agreed that closing schools and other public gathering places helped contain the spread of the virus.
Now things like schools and businesses are open again and, possibly also due to the first cold snap of the season, the past four days saw the highest number of positive tests of any four-day span since the pandemic began. Intensive care units in Utah are over three-quarters full, and hospital administrators warned the governor that they would soon need to ration care.
Dr. Eddie Stenehjem, an infection disease physical for Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare, warned that the situation is getting bad enough to warrant another statewide shutdown.
“We’re getting to a point where something’s going to need to be done to change this current trajectory,” he said. “That may mean another statewide, temporary pause unless something dramatic happens. Our health care systems are already on the brink, and there’s currently no signs of the current surge letting up. So it’s certainly a very, very severe situation we need to really do something about.”
It’s doubtful that enough moms have bought into the “mom code” to actually alter what’s happening in Utah, but it’s still unfortunate to see parents so desperate that they’ll buy into such a foolish idea.