Health officials say some Minnesota parents are not testing kids for COVID-19 to keep athletics going

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A local public health department calls it disturbing, and the state health department says it could lead to more COVID-19 deaths.

Families across the state choose not to test their children who are student-athletes in fear of them missing games. At least one community is trying to stop that from happening.

On March 15, families in the Hibbing School District received a letter from the Saint Louis County Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook.

“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,” Westbrook’s letter states. “Also disturbing, we are hearing of instances of parents intentionally avoiding getting their children tested and encouraging others to do the same.”

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Westbrook understands how important high school athletics are to families, but as community leader’s fight against the pandemic, she understands the importance of testing.

“We’re hearing in our communities that parents – not all parents – are holding backtesting 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,” Westbrook told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“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,” she added.

Not all are going against the guidance.

The Centennial High School girl’s hockey team had to cut their season short days before their first game in the state tournament.

The Minnesota Department of Health says it’s aware parents are choosing not to test their children who are student-athletes and that it’s happening across the state.

“Such a choice would be a short-term decision with long-term implications. Ultimately it leads to more spread of disease, more hospitalizations and deaths that undermine [the] opening up that has happened,” an MDH spokesperson commented to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

As for testing guidance for students and student-athletes, MDH sent us the following:

“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.”

To learn more specifics surrounding the state’s guidance with high school activities, click here.