The ‘mom code’ sparks national interest; Washington County School District sees rise in COVID-19 cases

ST. GEORGE —Having made recent national news, the “mom code” refers to an alleged unwritten agreement among Utah parents to not have their children tested for COVID-19 to prevent schools from closing.

From left, Enterprise High School students Broc Gardner, Dallee Cobb and Dawson Thelin appear via Zoom during Gov. Gary Herbert’s weekly coronavirus press conference on Aug. 26, 2020. | Screenshot from Gov. Gary Herbert Facebook page, St. George News

This new terminology comes a few months after St. George News first reported on the issue after receiving tips that students were being told to not get tested by some administration at Enterprise and Hurricane high schools.

At the time, just weeks after schools opened, Steven Dunham, district communications director for the Washington County School District, told St. George News there had been “different people” who posted on their own social media pages encouraging students and others to not get tested, but he wouldn’t specify who the people were and said no one was speaking in an official capacity.

On Monday, Dunham said he had heard about the “mom code” in the news but couldn’t confirm whether it is happening in the district. Rather, he said he has heard rumors that “people are suggesting it” but has no proof.

“I don’t know if it’s accurate. I don’t know what they’re doing,” he said. “I can tell you that we are clear with our staff members that that is not proper procedure, and they are not to encourage that in any way.”

Madeline Kazantzis, the organizer of Moms Against Masks, talks to protestors outside of the Washington County School District building, St. George, Utah, July 14, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Madeline Kazantzis, St. George News

Madeline Kazantzis, organizer of the Moms Against Masks coalition, told St. George News in a text that the “mom code” is just “what the newspapers are calling mothers who stand up for their children’s individual liberties instead of listening to propaganda and state guidelines.”

“It’s just mothers who are reminding each other that parental rights always supersede the State,” she said.

While the state’s case counts show the district has 38 active cases of coronavirus, Dunham said the number is actually higher but “less than 50.”

“And that combines students and staff,” he said. “There has not been evidence of an outbreak, although we have confirmed a student-to-student transfer, I believe, in one or two instances.”

He said one of the quarantined students tested positive after being exposed to another student who tested positive, which is why he was a little unclear on how many exactly.

“But still no outbreak,” he added.

One staff member has been hospitalized but has since been released. There are 299 students and staff currently quarantined. Of course, these numbers only include those who have been tested, which could be artificially lower than the actual number if some kids are not getting tested.

Despite the fact that the numbers of infections are increasing, at this point Dunham said there are no schools that are in danger of having to shut down, adding that he feels optimistic about where they are right now as a district.

Photo illustration. | Photo by Oksana Aksenova, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“I feel like we’re in a better situation than I had anticipated, and that brings me hope,” he said. “I would truly encourage our students and our parents to mask up at every opportunity they can — not for any political reason — just because studies are showing that it helps to reduce the transmission of the virus.”

As the holidays edge nearer, he said this is also a good time to take extra precautions, as holidays tend to be times when get togethers and parties increase the risk of spread.

For Dunham, he said he thinks it’s wise to keep benchmarks in the success of keeping schools open.

“Hopefully we can do this to Thanksgiving and beyond, and then we can do it to Christmas break,” he said, adding that it’s not at the schools where they are seeing the spread. “It’s elsewhere. So if people will be diligent in some of these areas and just be cautious, hopefully we can keep schools open longer.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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