Doctors: More parents are refusing COVID tests for their sick kids

Updated at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday

OVERLAND PARK — Doctors are reporting that more parents are refusing to have their sick children tested for the coronavirus because they don’t want to deal with the hassle if the result is positive.

Pediatric Partners in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park recently posted an alert on its Facebook page exhorting parents to stay vigilant because so many weren’t following testing advice, The Kansas City Star reports.

“We’ve had parents tell us, for instance, ‘No we have a big tournament this weekend, I don’t want to have to deal with COVID,'” said Pediatrician Kristen Stuppy. “And they’re forgetting the fact that it’s still going to be COVID even if you don’t know that it’s COVID. So from a public health perspective it scares me.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens who have COVID-19 symptoms should be tested immediately — “especially important if they have in-person in school, sports or jobs, so that anyone who may have been exposed can be alerted,” the organization says. If they have COVID-19, they need to isolate for at least 10 days.

Public health officials have said for weeks that overall interest in COVID-19 testing is down, which is problematic because it makes it difficult to know how much of the virus remains in the community and prevent it from spreading by having people isolate.

But many don’t want to deal with having their work and their children’s schooling and activities disrupted by quarantining, said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine in the health policy department at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

“So they’re saying ‘Well, he’s going to get over it anyway. Let’s just not make the diagnosis, and we don’t have to go through all that hullabaloo,'” Schaffner said. “That’s beyond unfortunate. That’s selfish. And it’s not in the public interest, it’s in your own narrow interest. It’s not in your child’s best interest.”

Dr. Angela Myers at Children’s Mercy said the hospital has seen a recent uptick in other viruses, including common colds and a couple of cases of respiratory viruses in the last week. She, too, is hearing that some parents are refusing COVID-19 testing, which concerns her.

“It is important to get tested if you have symptoms compatible with COVID-19 so that the appropriate actions can take place if positive,” said Myers, division director of infectious diseases.

There is no vaccine yet for children younger than 16, though Children’s Mercy is part of a national trial testing for one for younger kids. But many parents feel more secure now that vulnerable grandparents have been vaccinated and aren’t as worried about their children getting sick, Stuppy said.

“For many kids it seems like it’s a mild disease and I think they’re banking on that,” Stuppy said of parents. “But they’re forgetting that some kids get really sick.”

Statewide, just 38.1% of residents were at least partially vaccinated as of Wednesday, up just 1.1 percentage points from a week ago and 3.1 percentage points from two weeks ago as the rate of immunizations slows. State data also shows that the number of cases rose from Monday to Wednesday by 645 to 308,510 and the number of deaths by eight to 4,978.

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