'Mom code': Parents reportedly avoid testing kids to keep Utah COVID-19 numbers artificially low

SALT LAKE CITY -- Some parents in Utah have reportedly created a "mom code," an unwritten agreement to avoid testing their children for COVID-19 in an effort to keep schools open.

Heather Bremner, a parent at the Davis School District outside of Salt Lake City, said she first heard about "mom code" last month. She said the concept is spreading in local parent Facebook groups.

"Moms are kind of deciding together that, 'hey, we're not going to have our kids tested for COVID,'" she said.

Some of the posts read: "Stay home, don't get tested!" and "If your child shows COVID symptoms please keep them home but do not test."

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Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, explains how rapid testing can help keep schools open.



This agreement came to light as coronavirus rates skyrocketed in the state. Utah's Gov. Gary Herbert proclaimed Friday to be "a record day for Utah - but not a good one" as COVID-19 cases reached an all-time high.

"Up until now, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all COVID and non-COVID patients who need it," he said. "But today we stand on the brink. If Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our healthcare providers will not have the ability to provide quality care for everyone who needs it."

Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said while reopening schools is a priority for health officials, avoiding testing will not help this cause.

"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," Corey said. "Frequent testing can actually start to contain outbreaks and move to opening more schools and keeping them open."

Utah's Department of Health told ABC News it is aware of discussions among parents but "it's difficult to determine if this talk is actually turning into action."

The school district has not yet responded to ABC News's request for more information.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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