Did I overstep by giving my kid's friend a Covid test?
June 20, 2022 7:29 PM   Subscribe

What's the etiquette around testing other people's kids? Specific details inside.

Today a bunch of 11 yr olds congregated in my backyard to play badminton. A little while later they all trooped into the house for a snack and water. I overheard chatter about someone's family member getting Covid "last week", I found out who the kid was, and immediately called the parent.

Parent told me that yes, "someone" in the family had indeed got Covid, but as of yesterday they were out of quarantine and the kid was fine. They also said they were about to pray and hung up the phone in a hurry.

As the kids ate their snack, I checked in with this kid whether their family member was okay, and whether they'd struggled with any symptoms or not. This is when I found out that everyone in their family except the kid had had Covid. I thought it was dodgy that the parent had literally seconds ago told me that "someone" (singular) had had Covid but just said, "Wow, so you were the only one in the family who tested negative? That's lucky!"

The kid said, "Oh, no, I never tested because I never got any symptoms."

I freaked out internally. Then I told the kid that there's one member of our family who is immunocompromised so can the kid please take a test right now? Kid said yes, stuck the swab in their own nose, and I completed all the other steps. It was negative, huzzah, the gathering went on uninterrupted. I texted the negative test result to the parent about 30 minutes later.

In response I got a hrrumphy text from the parent saying, "I told you my kid was fine but I guess you didn't trust my word." Even after I explained why I tested the kid, they're ranting at me that I mistrusted them.

Please keep in mind that given that these are fucking 11 year olds, it might not even be true that the kid never got tested. Maybe the kid just forgot. Maybe there's a good explanation for what went on today. As the hours pass I'm getting a bit worried that actually I am the one who fucked up - and they might start complaining to other parents that I gave their kid a Covid test without informing the parent or asking the parent's permission.

Honestly in that moment I was just freaking the fuck out and needed to make sure the kid got tested. And normally I would have at least informed the parent prior but my brain had unconsciously but firmly filed away the parent as "unavailable because they are praying", and so I just... didn't. I didn't think of contacting them beforehand. I only texted them with results after the test came back negative.

What do you all think? Did I overstep? And if so, should I bring up this particular angle of my transgression on my own and apologize for it... Or should I try not to give them extra ammunition..? (Right now the parent has sent me two angry texts but both are about how I should have trusted their word. I'm not arguing with them about their word, in fact I pretended I have no problem with taking their word but I had to test since the kid told me they'd never been tested.)
posted by MiraK to Human Relations (75 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What "word" was there to trust? They didn't test their kid and they lied to you. You did nothing wrong. You can definitely start ignoring this irresponsible parent. In the future honestly I wouldn't allow kids into the house - snacks as well as play can all happen outside.
posted by Toddles at 7:45 PM on June 20, 2022 [37 favorites]

What do you all think? Did I overstep?

You pressured a minor to submit to a medical test to without their parents' consent, you absolutely did something wrong and I'm not sure how you can believe this might be acceptable.

You can put the kid out of your house and berate the parents for lying to you and you can test yourself and your own kids to your hearts' content, but you can't administer tests to other people's kids.
posted by mhoye at 7:48 PM on June 20, 2022 [92 favorites]

I think you can break this situation down into two important facts:

1) This child had recently been in contact with multiple people who had covid
2) If the child was positive, there was the possibility to spread it multiply children, your child, and yourself

Knowing the state of the world I would say you made the right choice.
posted by ockmockbock at 7:49 PM on June 20, 2022 [10 favorites]

There is no right answer.

So you can stop beating yourself up.

And forgive and understand if other people get upset.

There is no right answer.
posted by amtho at 8:11 PM on June 20, 2022 [25 favorites]

I would just be honest with the parent and try to talk it out. You can’t control how they’ll react. I personally don’t think you over stepped, but that’s my 2 cents
posted by Pretty Good Talker at 8:16 PM on June 20, 2022

Certainly would’ve raised my eyebrow had I been a neighbor. The other parent isn’t good with words; they’re telling you they didn’t want you to do that to their kid. You should apologize. I think this can be mended. Just send kids home next time you think they’re sick.
posted by michaelh at 8:21 PM on June 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: This is a perfect modern ethics question. I don't think there's a right answer here.

You tested a minor without parental consent - but then again, it's a test we all do all the time and it's not like the result would be a secret or stigmatizing. It's also important to consider that the parent was flat-out lying to you and also sending an untested kid with known recent covid exposure into your house to potentially start a superspreader event. Plus you let the kid do the test themselves. They're a minor so it's not true consent so it's not great, but it would certainly be worse if you'd been the one holding the swab.

I would just apologize to the parents for the incident, tell them it's because you panicked due to worry about the immunocompromised person in your life, and smooth things over.

Going forward, remember that truth is fluid with that other parent, and manage your risk more conservatively going forward by not doing indoor hangouts.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:26 PM on June 20, 2022 [34 favorites]

Best answer: (Right now the parent has sent me two angry texts but both are about how I should have trusted their word. I'm not arguing with them about their word, in fact I pretended I have no problem with taking their word but I had to test since the kid told me they'd never been tested.)

I think this is a thing on which reasonable people disagree but in my estimation the thing to do would have been to either test everyone beforehand (and just make that a thing you do with unmasked kid hangouts in general) or send the kid home that you feel iffy about and ask their parents to test them. Because, yeah, COVID tests are pretty straightforward and many people are used to taking a lot of them, but I also think that with someone else's kid, that sort of thing goes through the parents. I'm sorry you were freaking out, it sounds really stressful, but I guess I parse it like this:

- the parents lying to you doesn't mean you can give their kid a test
- a kid saying they don't mind doesn't mean it's okay
- you panicking doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you would have done otherwise which is ask the parent (I get that the prayer thing was confusing but it's on them if they don't want to get texted during prayers)
- whatever damage might have been done if the kid was positive would have already been done by the time you tested the kid, it just gave you the ability to make better choices. Sending the kids outside until you could have gotten ahold of the parent would have done nearly the same thing

The parent's word is not at issue and I'd ignore that since their idea of what "fine" means and yours may differ and you clearly disagree on the necessity of testing and under what circumstances (I'm more on your side of this fwiw). I'd just sincerely apologize for panicking as nouvelle-personne suggests and move on. As others have said, you can't affect how they take it but you can be accountable for how this thing that already happened landed with them. I totally understand how it all went down and again, sorry that happened in general because it sounds scary.
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 PM on June 20, 2022 [21 favorites]

I definitely had my temperature taken by friends' parents on sleepovers as a kid on more than one occasion. Is this different? To what extent is it different? Why is it different? I can't answer those questions but it's worth thinking about. Does mhoye think those parents were wildly out of bounds? If not, why not? I can't answer that either.

I also think there's no good answer here, but I do fall firmly on the side of I've eaten lukewarm street cart chicken I find more trustworthy than most people these days in re. public health. Blind faith in people can honestly get fucked.
posted by phunniemee at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2022 [63 favorites]

I've done this. Kid with some known Covid exposure some days prior came over for a playdate sounding hoarse. I handed him a test, he swabbed himself, he tested negative, then I let him play. I let the parents know after the fact, since they weren't easily reachable at the time, and nobody was upset.

So you're not the only one! And I wouldn't have been upset if somebody had done the same with my kid.
posted by wyzewoman at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2022 [11 favorites]

they're ranting at me that I mistrusted them
I'd be kind of salty if you gave my child a test for any medical condition. With an immunocompromised family member, I'd call the parent back, explain that you understand the whole family has had Covid, the child has not been tested, and with a family member's health at risk, ask permission to test the child. You mistrusted them because so many people have behaved unreasonably and the risk is unacceptable. I'd recommend you decide what your family policy is, and be in touch with other parents.

The country has decided to open up, for the most part, and this is going to be an issue. Maybe get a box of masks; I see masks on sale a lot right now, and ask visitors to mask up in the house. Masks can be labeled and you can hang them up for re-use as kids go in and out of the house.
posted by theora55 at 8:42 PM on June 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

I think what you did was wrong for the reasons stated by moyhe. Also, some have always had strong emotions about sticking stuff up kids noses, that’s why it’s more emotionally charged for some people than, say, having your temp taken at a sleepover… But I also think what they did was wrong. They may have decided that Covid is the sniffles and they can go about their life as normal and only test if the child has symptoms (many many people do feel this way) but it’s WRONG for them to decide that FOR YOU and then send their child into your house without communicating about exposures etc. and I think she fudged her answers and the kid told the full truth about not having a test. To keep the friendship I would probably read the advice in this thread and choose what felt right and go with that but I just wanted to share my thoughts as a person who is fairly unemotional about Covid.
posted by pairofshades at 9:21 PM on June 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I’m not a parent, but I work with kids and think a lot about appropriate boundaries with other people’s kids. I’m struggling to see a meaningful difference between taking a kid’s temperature with an oral thermometer, and testing a kid for COVID with a nasal swab. If it were flu season and this kid was talking about his whole family coming down with flu, having an immune compromised person in your household would probably lead you to assess whether the kid was sick, right? You might ask them about how they were feeling and take their temperature, just as a precaution.

It sounds to me like the kid’s parent is mad you caught them in a lie and is grasping for a way to blame you. It would be one thing if they’d said “I tested them this morning and it was negative,”—they might have a point about you not taking them at their word in that case. But the parent didn’t actually “give you their word,” they just lied about the specifics (“someone” rather than everyone), dismissed your concern (“they’re fine” is meaningless without a negative test), and hung up. If they’d stayed on the phone, you could have told them you were going to test to double check, and they could have objected (and arranged to pick up their kid immediately) or consented. But since they didn’t take the situation seriously, you had to make a choice about how to keep your family safe, and opted for something akin to taking a temperature.
posted by theotherdurassister at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2022 [37 favorites]

I think you were in kind of an impossible situation here.

No, you're not supposed to give other people's kids medical tests. Obviously.

But sometimes manners need to be overridden by more urgent concerns, and I think it was well within the bounds of reasonable that you'd want the assurance of a test for a kid that's coming to you from a house where there were several recent cases.

Had you known about this circumstance before the kid came over, you would have asked for a test before they came, right? Or at least changed it to a park date.

In my circles, if there is COVID in the house, it is understood that everyone in the house gets tested when the case is identified and again before they go to someone's house or to social events, etc. I think this kid's mom is the asshole here for not adhering to that policy. And if she DID test the kid and the kid just forgot, then why is she being so salty about it?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2022 [15 favorites]

One meaningful difference between taking an oral temperature vs. a nasal swab is the collection of a body fluid.
posted by pairofshades at 9:31 PM on June 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

pairofshades, if you see this comment, could you say more about what you mean by that? I don't follow your reasoning but I would like to understand it.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:38 PM on June 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You overstepped. Not drastically, but you did. Grovel a bit. (I suspect it may not help with these people, but you should anyway.) But don't beat yourself up too hard, and, going forward, be aware that the parents of this family are unreliable and, frankly, of low character (not even testing their kid before sending them out to play with the neighborhood???), and think about how you'll want to proceed with them to maintain your chosen level of COVID safety in your own home.
posted by praemunire at 9:42 PM on June 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

An 11yo is old enough in many places to be considered legally capable of giving their own informed consent to medical treatment.

You offered the child medical supplies that they could use, if they wished. They chose to do so.

So long as you did not force or bully the child, simply explained why you were concerned and offered the test, and provided any help the child requested, there are zero ethical issues with it, either.

I'm sure the parent would have a problem with someone offering a pregnancy test, too, if the child described circumstances in which they might need one.
- Would that prevent you from offering it?
- What the child did not feel physically or emotionally safe asking for the test?
- What if the reaction in the home to a positive test was not one that was in the child's best interest?
- What if the child did not receive safe and appropriate medical care after a positive result?
- What if the child was forced or prevented from decisions on their reaction to a positive test?

I hope you ALSO gained the child's consent before informing their parent of the results of the test.

If it was a pregnancy test - and the child trusted you enough to receive help from you in obtaining one, and a safe place to use it - would you have informed the parent?
Or would you have allowed the child to make the decision as to how the parent should be informed?

*** As an aside: Medical neglect is still medical neglect. Even if it's justified by religion or ignorance.
posted by stormyteal at 9:45 PM on June 20, 2022 [16 favorites]

Hi nouvelle-personne, the person answering after me said they couldn’t see a meaningful difference between taking a temperature orally vs. the Covid test… so I was just sharing my thoughts on that. With the Covid test the swab is taking a specimen for testing.
posted by pairofshades at 9:47 PM on June 20, 2022

With regard to someone else's kid, yeah, I guess you probably overstepped. I would apologize, explain that you have a family member that is immunocompromised, say that you panicked when the kid said they hadn't been tested, that you should have called them, and that it won't happen again.

With regard to my kid, who is 7 years old: If you asked him to take a COVID test, and he said yes and took the COVID test, I would not bat an eye. Free COVID test, sweet.
posted by jordemort at 9:52 PM on June 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

Your only other choice was to send the child home, after a kind explanation of course.

From the point of view of the 11 year old, it was preferable by far to take a simple 3 minute test, than to be singled out and sent away from the gathering of friends. For a sensitive kid, that can be mortifying.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:05 PM on June 20, 2022 [12 favorites]

If you are concerned about an immunocompromised household member then don’t have a bunch of kids coming into your house.

I’m sorry but it isn’t fair or reasonable to put your family’s health onto the shoulders of a minor.
What if the kid refused a test?

Also didn’t you also have the rest of the group in your house untested?
posted by calgirl at 10:14 PM on June 20, 2022 [54 favorites]

The parent is a nasty liar and an asshole, first of all. So if you’re worried about their feelings in any way, don’t bother. They’re not “right,” though you may wish to “apologize” if they’re pigheaded enough to keep acting like a shit about it and the social cost is too high. (I wouldn’t want to.) But ultimately they wanted their kid off their hands more than they care about anything else. Selfish turd behavior.

Just sending the kid home is, I assume, not actually enough— if you were left uncertain whether the kid was a potential positive, there would be a minimum of quarantining 3-5 days in the immunocompromised person’s own home. So knowing they were negative is actually significant.

Really, you were in a lose-lose situation. This was a high risk exposure, the fact that the parent has soup for brains doesn’t change that. (Lots of parents do!) Sometimes kids have to go through minor discomfort due to their parents’ negligence. (My sister had to get the heimlich from a firefighter, for instance.) Unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as someone dealing with a months or lifelong medical problem. It’s just as likely the kid will grow up to remember this as “the time my friend’s mom took that weird situation seriously, like an adult, when my parents were being their typical useless selves.” I have lots of those memories.

If the parents didn’t want their kid tested, they shouldn’t have sent a kid with multiple known exposures to someone else’s house. Duh— but some people really are too stupid to get the picture.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:26 PM on June 20, 2022 [16 favorites]

Yeah, the fuck up was letting a bunch of 11 year olds into the house when you have an immunocompromised family member. How do you know the other kids don’t have asymptomatic Covid? I’m not saying this to berate you. I’m saying it might be better to think about some different guidelines and boundaries with your kiddos right now, and who comes into the house. Covid is raging where I am and I am guessing where you are too.

As for the next part: it’s a moral injury sort of situation, an ethical dilemma with no clear right answer. Apologize to the parent (who cares what’s it’s for — you just need to smooth things over a bit) and then move on.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:41 PM on June 20, 2022 [21 favorites]

Best answer: You arguably overstepped, but less so because the kiddo agreed to the test and swabbed themselves. I feel like a simple apology to the parent in the vein of "sorry I overstepped some boundaries but I was just so worried about all of the kids" should suffice here. Things are more fraught and tense because we're all pandemic stressed, but we do expect the adult watching a gaggle of other kids to make some judgement calls about health and safety and do some caretaking; that's what adult supervision is for.
posted by desuetude at 10:49 PM on June 20, 2022 [9 favorites]

you didn't overstep and the idea that a self-administered covid test is a special moral issue over and above offering a bandaid or taking a temperature, because you stole the kid's precious nasal effluvia, is ludicrous. however, if you had a "bunch" of 11 year olds over, at least one of them and probably more than one of them definitely had covid, and I don't know why you would only worry about this one kid and not all the others.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:53 PM on June 20, 2022 [36 favorites]

Yikes. What a tough situation for you! I feel like this is an impossible position where there are no right answers. Having said that, I don't think you messed up by giving the kid a Covid test, but I do think that next time you should get the parent's explicit permission first. And/or next time ask parents to test their kids before coming to your house. I'm less Covid-cautious than most of Metafilter but I wouldn't blink at being asked to test before going to an indoor event. It is a completely reasonable request.
posted by unicorn chaser at 3:00 AM on June 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

It’s like it’s the screw-up stage of the pandemic. Here too, everyone I know is having issues.

Other kid’s parents: didn’t communicate about having Covid, should have and either offered to test their child or kept them home, minimized or lied on the phone.

You: didn’t ask about testing, had the gathering move indoors despite the immunocompromised family member, singled one child out.

There’s all kinds of things to unpack but I’d apologize to grease the social wheels.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:21 AM on June 21, 2022 [6 favorites]

I am slightly confused by the idea that the covid test is a "medical test" and therefore obviously shouldn't be administered to someone else's kids without permission. Like, it's a nose swab, and nobody records it. It's the functional equivalent of checking a temperature, or helping a kid blow their nose. And you *didn't even do it* you simply gave it to the child to do. Sure, if the kid says "no" don't do it and send them home, but I don't see how this is boundary crossing for a child that is under your supervision.

Obviously other people disagree, but I would not lose a wink of sleep over this.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:32 AM on June 21, 2022 [34 favorites]

Yeah, the very fact that there's such an array of reactions here in this thread about the appropriateness of testing someone else's kid suggests that yeah, this is something that's still new ground for all of us and potentially sensitive enough that it's just a safer bet to ask for their parents' permission first.

The consent issue is ultimately pretty iffy here -- the kid said yes, and it's good that the kid could self-administer, but the kid's also a minor and you're an adult and there's an inherent power difference due to kids generally being taught to do what adults say.

And speaking as someone who is immunosuppressed: As higher risk folks, our current reality is that the responsibility for protecting ourselves from covid falls squarely on our own shoulders. We have zero control over other people's risk thresholds, actual exposure to covid, post-infection isolation length (if any), or disclosure preferences. Any of those kids could have had an exposure, but you only found out about this particular one.

Knowing this, you might want to sit down with your household and come to some level of agreement of what level of prevention is workable and practical for you, what exactly would that look like, just for the summer for now. I have a current set of boundaries based on the advice of my doctors and it's just helpful for me to follow specific guidance that X activity is generally okay, Y activity is too risky for patients like me, and I shouldn't do Z until the infection rate is under whatever percent.
posted by mochapickle at 3:37 AM on June 21, 2022 [8 favorites]

I come down on the side of this being wrong. The temperature analogy fails because fever isn’t something that a person can reasonably expect to keep private. It’s an external symptom. There are devices that would allow you to detect it from across the room, and even sitting next to someone feverish is often enough to feel the additional heat.

The snot is different. Kids pass hpv and ebv to each other too. Would you test for those?
posted by condour75 at 4:30 AM on June 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

In mentioning this to my husband, he said for him it would be upsetting if our 11 year old were singled out as a potential source of infection for someone medically vulnerable. I mean, we would have disclosed because that’s how we rolled even pre-Covid with germs. But yeah, it would be really hard for my child (who cares a lot, but has standard 11 yo impulse control) if he were the only child tested and the vulnerable person got sick even a month later.

So that’s just something to consider. For us, my job is public-facing and my kids are in school and my younger will be at day camp, so we are essentially at risk of being vectors all the time. We’re cautious and mask up as a result but really, I think a lot of school aged kids are in the same boat. As adults I think we have to make choices accordingly.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:03 AM on June 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

The other parent's word isn't worth diddly. They should have informed you there was a COVID exposure and let you decide your level of comfort. The focus on taking their word is to cover that they did the wrong thing in the first place and put you in a bad spot.

I also disagree with the folks who're bent out of shape about you giving a "medical test" to the kid. It's non-invasive and it's not like you're sending out for DNA testing to check their genetics.

I'd feel differently if you forced the kid to do the swab or held them down to do it -- but given the pervasiveness of COVID and use of rapid tests all over the place, it isn't something that feels invasive or wrong to me.

The real question I think for the future is what you would do differently. Was this effective in any way? Probably not. You had a gathering at your house and didn't test everybody. You can assume there was a COVID exposure -- even if it wasn't this kid.

If you have an immunocompromised family member, then you need to act proactively - and I'd consider not hosting gatherings indoors at all as long as COVID is still spreading.
posted by jzb at 5:07 AM on June 21, 2022 [12 favorites]

I understand why you did it but I would be annoyed if you did it to my child. They are not in a position to consent and actually I wouldn't be delighted if you took my kids' temperature especially either. Why do it, actually? I mean I understand the desire to know but it doesn't actually change the situation, which is that the kids have been at your house while potentially infectious. It would have been better to call the parent and ask the child to wait with you, masked, outside, while they picked them up. My child's medical care is my responsibility and it doesn't really change anything for your family to test my family, does it? You could focus on testing your family, given that a diagnosis is just going to let you know what has already occurred.

Having said that, yeah, I think they make a mistake too- I would never send my child to your house without testing them if we'd had covid at home. How short sighted of them and very stressful for you.
posted by jojobobo at 5:19 AM on June 21, 2022 [8 favorites]

Wow, everyone attempting to make this justified is way off. I'm a super liberal snowflake, paranoid about covid, and a very flexible parent, and I would freak the fuck out. Literally don't touch my kid. Don't give them a fucking Advil without checking. You way overstepped and my kid would never go back to your house without me staying for the duration. You need to rethink yourself of here and really understand why you need to apologize. They sound like not great people and it sucks they put you in this position but the time to deal with that was with a clear protocol before the event.

Someone upstream actually said medical informed consent for an 11 year old and then waved this away as you offering them medical equipment. Wtf. Double wtf. Seriously. No.
posted by chasles at 5:26 AM on June 21, 2022 [22 favorites]

I do think you probably shouldn't test other people's kids without permission, and the better course of action would have been to shoo everyone right back outside and call the parent to come pick the kid up or else give permission for a test, or both. The even better course of action would have been to make "everyone tests on arrival, and the parents know that ahead of time" a standard practice for when you expect to have bunch of kids over indoors, given your household's risk level.

But I do think the other parent's behavior was really terrible too and I understand why you freaked out and didn't do the absolute best thing in the situation.

They owe you an apology but it doesn't sound like you're going to get it. I don't think that should prevent you from apologizing for your own panicky handling of the situation. Maybe that will cool tensions and maybe it won't but you'll have done what you could.
posted by Stacey at 5:33 AM on June 21, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I think one of the reasons it wasn’t a good idea to administer the test was: what if it had come back positive? Suddenly the kid is sitting there having discovered he’s got a scary disease, maybe has threatened the life of someone in your household, the party is immediately disbanded and it’s all his fault, plus sounds like there’s some fraught shit going on at home, and all this is swirling around him while the only adults around are legitimately freaking out about their immunocompromised kid so aren’t really available to give support. I don’t blame you because who the hell knows how to live in this day and age, but to me that’s the difference between taking a temperature and giving a covid test, and I think it’s good to keep in mind going forward.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 5:43 AM on June 21, 2022 [54 favorites]

I can appreciate that there are several sides to this issue, but imho the credible health/death risk outweighs the others, full stop.
posted by Dashy at 6:01 AM on June 21, 2022 [10 favorites]

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether you were “right” here. If your kid wants to keep hanging out with the other kid, you should show some level of contrition to mend relations with their parent for the benefit of the kids going forward (“it’s hard to know what to do right now to keep everyone safe and I apologize for putting your kid on the spot instead of planning better in advance or communicating better in the moment”). In the future, set a clear boundary and expectation for gatherings at your house (“please be aware that we have an immunocompromised household member and all guests will need to take a Covid test upon arrival.”)
posted by ohneat at 6:02 AM on June 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm an epidemiologist. When I hear "I told you my kid was fine but I guess you didn't trust my word," or anything in the ballpark, I have a straightforward response:

"That's correct."

You took a very responsible action. You did not overstep in any way, no matter what attempts are made to inflame feelings. A parent's autonomy over their children while in the care of other adults does not extend to decision-making authority over assessing that child's viral burden.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 6:04 AM on June 21, 2022 [50 favorites]

I also disagree with the folks who're bent out of shape about you giving a "medical test" to the kid. It's non-invasive and it's not like you're sending out for DNA testing to check their genetics.

But...this is similar to DNA collection. Maybe not now, in this particular era, is this likely, but no one here would be cool with another parent deliberately taking their kids DNA for a fun 23 and Me send off, right? I get why this is so much more invasive than a temperature, but even taking a kids temp or giving them a Tylenol would have warranted a phone call to the parents first.

And yes, the kid wouldn't have known how to refuse the request, at 11. Maybe they felt awkward and awful but couldn't say? And also, what if it was positive?

Legit, I agree with those that say that you shouldn't have been "freaking the fuck out" because a lack of planning on your part (not considering this possibility, not having a covid plan/policy before the party, maybe not inviting kids to an immnocompromised household), did not constitute a sudden emergency.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:20 AM on June 21, 2022 [14 favorites]

I know people have all kinds of feelings about COVID stuff and bodies but fwiw I would not be annoyed if I found out someone gave my child a test.
posted by johngoren at 6:21 AM on June 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Many commenters have already spoken to the adult perspective, so I’d just like to provide a kid’s point of view. Within my own kiddo’s friend group, there is a lot of stigma around both getting *and* giving Covid. Nobody wants to be the person who spoils events for others. Being given a medical test at a gathering would be incredibly embarrassing for many children - even if they appear to agree to it. Additionally, many children struggle with how to say no to an adult (particularly a peer’s worried parent). Taking a Covid test is not the same thing as taking your temperature - and kids know this; the social and political implications are much starker. If a child’s parent tells you one thing and you proceed with testing anyway (rather than just sending everyone home or back outside), I can imagine the issue of boundaries being incredibly confusing for the child.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 6:21 AM on June 21, 2022 [21 favorites]

Yes, you absolutely overstepped. 100% you were in the wrong here. You do not pressure a minor into taking a Covid test without their parents’ permission. You do not single out one child unnecessarily.

This is incredibly dodgy (similar to lying) and I would probably tell my social circle that you did this to my child.

As I tell my children, two wrongs do not make a right. Whatever the other parent did does NOT justify your transgression. I would hope the other parent apologises for their lying, but you absolutely need to say you are sorry too.

If it was such an emergency that you had to test a minor without their parents’ permission, you should not invite people to your house without a clear Covid policy (ie everyone testing when they arrive). You do not change the rules of the game halfway.
posted by moiraine at 6:29 AM on June 21, 2022 [9 favorites]

I'm sympathetic to your concern for your immunocompromised family member and know you were acting from a place of concern and desire to do the right thing around covid risk, but count my reaction among those who find this to be a pretty egregious trangression. As a child if a friend's parent (an authority figure) asked me if they could administer a test like that to me and me alone during a playdate, it would never have occurred to me that saying "no" was an option. I would have said yes and the experience would have been profoundly humiliating and upsetting for me even if I technically "consented."

Your issue here was with the other kid's parents, not the 11-year-old. I totally agree with you that they were irresponsible and their response left a lot to be desired, but I do think your response put the child on the spot in a way that wasn't in any way appropriate, even if your general disposition towards covid is more responsible than their family's. I would apologize to them for overstepping (their response will probably be shitty, but that doesn't mean an apology isn't warranted) and I think you need to rethink your playdate guidelines in the future.
posted by superfluousm at 6:35 AM on June 21, 2022 [6 favorites]

Upon reflection of this thread I want to revise my earlier answer: I don't think giving a child a covid test is inherently wrong, but other posters are right that these particular circumstances could have been traumatic or stressful. It does sound like you were upset, which kids tend to pick up on, and would have made the whole thing rather fraught. That in itself seems worth an apology.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:57 AM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think 11 years old is old enough to consent to an extremely low risk (essentially zero-risk) medical procedure. Even doctors/hospitals take consent from minors seriously assuming they're old enough to understand. So the question then is if the consent was freely given -- there was a power imbalance in the relationship. So I guess it depends on the situation and the tone and whether the kid felt like he could say no.

But even if you did wrong, I think they did worse and they're embarrassed and trying to deflect blame.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:57 AM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

No medical tests on minors without parent/guardian consent. It's a simple rule. There's not an exception for, well, anything really, but not for "it's just a nose swab" or "their parents were praying and I didn't want to bother them." And inviting a kid into your house doesn't mean they've waived that right.

I get the psychology behind acting quickly. But also, in hindsight options like texting the parent to ask for permission, or just trundling the kids outside again, would have been acceptable options that wouldn't have changed the incident's risk profile at all.

You owe the parents and child an apology. But I also think the parent probably lied to you and owes you an apology you're not going to get, so choose your path.
posted by mark k at 7:07 AM on June 21, 2022 [10 favorites]

You did absolutely the right thing. Doing that required you to step on the boundaries of some people who lied, and that’s their tough sh!t. Lying to someone about exposure to a deadly disease is about as antisocial as you can get and the rest of us need to protect ourselves from people like that.

Just sending the kid home would not solve the problem. The question is not whether their kid gets a play date, it’s whether someone brought a deadly disease into your house.

And keep in mind that you’re not the only one affected by them sending a walking plague vector off into the world. What you did was a public service.

Consider this: if the test had turned up positive — and there is absolutely no reason to think that it couldn’t have — how impressed would you be with their parents’ current complaints?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:20 AM on June 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

I agree with those who said you would be to wise to apologize and to keep children (or others) of unknown status out of the house due to your family risk level.

Additionally, although the situation was frantic, I do wonder if it might have been more prudent to send all of the kids out and then test your own family for a few days afterwards?
As others have mentioned, there were many kids in the house who's status/exposure you did not know of, and the one child who you were aware of having been exposed. Just thinking of the ultimate goal (identifying your family's risk), it seems there were more steps to take. I would not have even trusted a self-administered 11 year old's rapid test result.
posted by fies at 7:21 AM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for weighing in. This is clearly a dilemma of modern parenting and everyone's thoughts have been educational.

Happily my own immediate problem has been resolved. Late last night I got a text from the other parent in response to my explanation hours earlier, saying they understand my situation and sorry for yelling at me. I texted back apologizing for asking their kid to take a test without checking with them first. They said it's cool. Phew. I was worried because this is my kid's best friend for the last two years. I'm glad I haven't fucked that up for my kid.

Some of you made the point that I was out of line to give the kid a test without their parent's permission and that rings true to me. That's the "side" I would normally fall on in situations like this, and I guess the fact that I was freaking out is probably what made me act in an uncharacteristic way yesterday. That, plus it's been TWO FREAKING YEARS since any kids have been over at my house. My skills as neighborhood mom are clearly rusty.

One clarification: I was absolutely not pressuring the kid to take the test. The kid was perfectly able to say no, and in fact the kid *did* say no when I suggested they might want to swab the back of their throat, and also said no when I offered to help them swab. I explained my reasons for requesting a test and the kid readily agreed. If the kid had said no, then I would have asked all the kids to stay outdoors and given masks to all rather than send one child back home. But staying outdoors by default would have been less fun for the whole bunch since they all had plans for indoor activities that they were excited about.

In future I'm definitely going check explicitly with parents about Covid safety issues before kids come over. When I hosted a birthday party last month, the first ever gathering of kids at my place since the pandemic began, I made sure to check carefully with each parent and lay out all our needs and expectations clearly. But this time I didn't.. and there are a couple of reasons for it.

The party involved this exact set of kids, so I unthinkingly assumed the parents already knew about our family's practices and would automatically adhere to last month's expectations. In addition there was just the novelty of the whole event. Yesterday, when my kid invited friends over impromptu, somehow the thought of Covid safety checks didn't even consciously make me pause beyond, oh, they'll be outdoors, so I don't have to remind anyone about masks. My main thought was, "OMG how awesome, friends are coming over, it's just like old times!" All the careful habits of the past two years fell away because of the novelty and nostalgia that got evoked when my kid said, so unexpectedly, "Mooooommmm I called my friends over to play badmindton, they'll be here in 15 minutes!" Sigh.
posted by MiraK at 7:29 AM on June 21, 2022 [28 favorites]

Response by poster: Also want to note, it's neither wise nor possible for me to do much to manage risks for the immunocompromised person in our family, because the person in question is the kids' dad, my ex, whom the kids live with 50% of the time. See, he does not himself really give much of a shit about covid safety. He lives a low risk life mostly because he's a total introvert who hates to socialize, not because he bothers to follow any safety protocols himself beyond getting vaccinated. So even though I'm clearly carrying anxiety about accidentally exposing him (like, seriously, I don't want this guy to get sick okay!!!) the fact is it doesn't make sense for me to be extra cautious on his behalf. It's a weird fucking situation, so help me.
posted by MiraK at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2022 [6 favorites]

No good answers to this one although given the situation you were put in, I probably would have done the same. It's your house, you have to make sure you're doing all you can to protect your immunocompromised family member. I'm glad you and the other parents were able to apologize and make it right, rather than it escalating.

I am also glad you clarified that the immunocompromised family member isn't living at the same residence as you (and is not a minor themselves). I think some of the more critical responses probably assumed that was the case; I initially had a more critical response myself (essentially "why would you allow this in your home if there was an immunocompromised person there") until I read the followup.

The fact that you got 50+ comments to this question with a variety of answers means that nobody is quite certain how to deal with situations like this. So sorry this happened, glad the fallout was contained and you will be better prepared next time. I think some of the other commenters should step back and take a deep breath.
posted by fortitude25 at 8:09 AM on June 21, 2022 [9 favorites]

I’m really glad it worked out and you’re all still friends!
posted by pairofshades at 8:29 AM on June 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Even if I didn't have a problem with the testing per se, I would have a problem with you putting my child in that position (hypothetically, because obviously I wouldn't send my kid to a gathering if someone in the family had Covid). I don't think it's appropriate, medically and socially.

I especially don't think it's appropriate because I can't quite figure out how a negative test allayed any of your concerns. To be safe I would have just assumed me and mine were exposed and moved the gathering outside, or at least accepted the increased risk of having it indoors. Only you know how worried to be about your immunocompromised ex, but the "nuclear" option would have been to ask the kid to leave (politely and regretfully, obviously) but again, even then you have to assume you've been exposed. So why ask the kid to test at all?
posted by lydhre at 8:34 AM on June 21, 2022 [7 favorites]

queenofbithynia, the test had no precautionary value because the child had already been at the house playing. Merricat Blackwood's comment is a really insightful one as to what might have happened if it had come back positive.

MiraK, glad it all worked out.
posted by superfluousm at 8:40 AM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would have done what you did, under the circumstances. Normally it would be uncouth to force someone to medical test, BUT covid has changed everything, and sending an untested kid from a house full of covid to another house is just plain shitty irresponsible behavior these days. I'm glad this all resolved and the kid was negative.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2022 [8 favorites]

My partner was standing nearby when I was reading this question, and before I read over any answers, we both agreed this struck us as not that different than having another parent take your temperature taken if you're feeling unwell on a playdate, something we both recall happening. I can also recall instances of other parents bandaging a scraped knee, and other forms of medical attention.

Like some comments upthread, I also found it confusing why people would find asking a child (especially a tween) to self-administer a basic test (which at this point, they have undoubtedly had to take at some point) as any different then offering a kid who reports feeling unwell with a thermometer. You were not unfairly singling out the child - you were responding to their specific circumstance. You weren't risking putting shame on the child - there *should* be no shame/stigma on getting COVID - if there is stigma, that's not the fault of any individual but society. The point above that it's different because it's collecting fluids only makes sense if we are to be so paranoid to believe that our kid's friend's parents are going to harvest their DNA or something and not just throw the used swab in the trash.

But, clearly from the comments a lot of people do feel it's different. After thinking on it, my hunch is that this reflects the fact that this is all relatively new. When someone send's their kid over to a friend's house, they more or less consent to the friend's parents being in control of parenting for a bit, and while it's not always spelled-out, this generally means "consents to generally agreed upon social norms." Like, presumably you did not need to clear with all of the parents what snack you'd feed their kids - people let other parents make numerous decisions for their kids all of the time. And generally, this works okay as long as everyone sticks to basic norms (like, don't hit/yell at kids, feed them when they hungry, put sunscreen on them if outside, you know, basic norms). It's also how kids learn that all families are a bit different, with different rules, food preferences, etc. But we are only slightly over two years into the pandemic, and even less into group hangouts post-pandemic, so there are no norms here. Many many people feel confident their way should be the norm - hence the sense of some that this was a violation.

I'm glad it sounds like it worked out in this case, but this will undoubtedly come up again, and I think you need to accept that given your immunocompromised-ex, you fall on the more cautious end of the spectrum. So, I think it's good you're planning on going over your rules with all parents in the future. I think not-doing that was the only mistake you made here.
posted by coffeecat at 9:45 AM on June 21, 2022 [15 favorites]

Not to make this a back and forth, but for me the main difference between a medical test and checking a temperature/bandaging a scraped knee is that the latter is about the comfort of the CHILD, not the attendees. As a parent, I would try to help any kid in my care who was acting sick or got injured (and even then I would check for anything beyond immediate first aid, I’d call before I gave anyone painkillers). Kid was asymptomatic. The test wasn’t to make sure he was okay and comfortable, it was to figure out whether he was contagious.

But then we go back to my ethical line, which is that his positive or negative status wouldn’t have changed the post-exposure precautions I would have taken anyway.
posted by lydhre at 10:16 AM on June 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

In this particular situation, making one child take a Covid test is not at all like taking a temperature/ bandaging a scraped knee / putting on suncream/ or even offering food (!) because these are kind actions that are in the spirit of being kind to the child.

The squick factor and why this is ethically wrong, is that ONE child has been singled out, by asking a series of questions in a possibly-interrogative manner (I'm sure we can all know the feeling of being that one child who has been asked a series of pointed questions by a person of authority and is being made to feel like they are Doing Something Wrong), and making that ONE child a pariah, because of expectations that are not communicated upfront, and also to be made to take a Covid test to allay another parent's fears.

It is your home, yes, but it is also their body.

I'm glad that this has been descalated, but I do wonder if there are socio-economic reasons that would aggravate the response (has the said child or family as a whole been made to feel like the odd one out before, for racial/ economic/ cultural reasons, i.e. the only 'X'-type family in 'Y' neighbourhood).
posted by moiraine at 11:02 AM on June 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

1) Taking a kid's temperature because they're showing symptoms that could be due to a fever or due to being excited (flushed, no appetite) seems very different than taking a COVID rapid test, which is not a reliable indicator if a person is sick with COVID or contagious. As others have said, the first is because of symptoms you can see that may be uncomfortable for the child. The second is something you're doing to make yourself feel better when you're freaking out (according to the poster's own telling of the story)
2) It is a new thing to think about as a parent - how do I feel about my kid being asked to provide DNA? Of course the OP isn't shipping the test off to 23andMe, but I think there's a pretty significant parenting question to ask oneself in this moment in history. In what circumstances is it ok for someone to ask for my kid's DNA? Are there situations where it's not ok? How can I explain the difference to my child and prepare them for this type of situation?
posted by dotparker at 11:06 AM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

If we're suddenly concerned about DNA collection (?!) then I hope we're also all aware that snot can be found in tissues (and on many, many other things children touch), and DNA is left on drinking glasses and forks and spoons and popsicle sticks and chewed gum and hairbrushes, in quantities that are legally sufficient to prove paternity or capture criminals. And kids get DNA all over the place during playdates. In fact, I'd wager my (admittedly tiny) kids put more DNA on the surfaces they touch in an hour than a 10 second swab to the nose could possibly collect. I'm being, er, swab in cheek, but come on. The risk here was not about illicit DNA collection and that's not at all why the other parent got huffy; they were just embarrassed because they got caught in an inconsiderate lie.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:11 PM on June 21, 2022 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm confused by people who're saying the negative test made no difference, since these tests are in fact a reliable measure of whether someone is contagious. The negative test gave me reassurance that we had not been exposed to a contagious person. Now nobody in my family needs to quarantine and none of the other kids' families need to be informed of possible exposure.

Like, I understand that testing this kid was a bad move on my part. The point about the Covid test being for my benefit rather than that kid's is well taken. The point about the kid not being in an emotionally safe environment *for them* to handle a possible positive test result is EXTREMELY well taken. The point about absolutely needing the parent's consent before testing is also well taken. What I'm saying here is that the test, ill advised though it was in all these ways, was still useful and the result made a meaningful difference to my actions consequently. I don't understand how come some people think the test result should have made no difference either way. Can you please explain what you mean?
posted by MiraK at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2022 [6 favorites]

Lately there's been a noticeable uptick in Covid patients who do not test positive on rapid tests until days and days into their illness. Anecdotally, I have two immediate family members who didn't test positive until days 4 and 5, and one who never tested positive on rapid tests and ended up getting a test at urgent care.

Here's something from The Atlantic: A Negative COVID Test Has Never Been So Meaningless

I think the kid in question was fine; I also (anecdotally, which is all I can offer) know many people who shared a house with Covid patients and never caught it.

Anyway, I'm glad it worked out fine, your stomach must have sunk overhearing the kid. I wish so hard that Covid messaging was handled better because there is no good answer to "am I too cavalier? am I too cautious? this doc says this, this epidemiologist says that" and the result is we're all caught in an emotional eddy.
posted by kimberussell at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: kimberussell, yes, I am aware that a negative test doesn't necessarily mean a person doesn't have Covid (the test could have been taken too soon, viral loads may not have built up to detectable thresholds). But everything I've read says a negative test is a reliable indicator of whether someone is contagious (which is what matters when we are trying to determine exposure).

See this NBC News article dated June 15, 2022 reporting on a recently published large scale study conducted in January 2022:
But Hwang and two other disease experts said rapid tests (also known as antigen tests) are good indicators of when a person might be contagious.

"Only the people shedding the most virus are going to be positive with a rapid test, but those are the people you especially want to identify because they’re the most infectious," said Dr. Sheldon Campbell, an associate professor of laboratory medicine at the Yale School of Medicine who wasn't involved in the research.
posted by MiraK at 1:30 PM on June 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

I can explain why I would feel that a negative test would be meaningless. Positive results are very reliable indicators of infectivity. Negatives, though, are not reliable indicators of lack of covid.

My in laws tested negative for days while sick before they popped a positive. My friend just tested negative on rapid throughout his illness, only tested positive on PCR. My own kid tested negative on a rapid while contagious: she infected me, her best friend, and subsequently all of our families. Negative tests are not an all clear, you have to assume the test COULD have missed the infection.

Given that the child was clearly exposed I would have had to default to taking all covid precautions regardless of a negative test.
posted by lydhre at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2022 [9 favorites]

Also, how much information do you have about the exposure of every other guest? It seems clear to me that the only way to have any sort of certainty about your kids' exposure before they see your ex would be to test them. Otherwise, it does feel like you were trying to retroactively do something you should have done from the start. Which I recognize you don't want to do, since it's shaping your life around your ex's expectations, but I don't see how testing someone else's kid is the less disruptive approach than demanding tests from the start.
posted by sagc at 1:46 PM on June 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, and here is the journal article I was trying to hunt down - published March 29, 2022 - The Usefulness of Antigen Testing in Predicting Contagiousness in COVID-19 :
Increasing the diagnostic capacity for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 infection) is required to improve case detection, reduce COVID-19 expansion, and boost the world economy. Rapid antigen detection tests are less expensive and easier to implement, but their diagnostic performance has been questioned compared to reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR). Here, we evaluate the performance of the Standard Q COVID-19 antigen test for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 infection and predicting contagiousness compared to RT-PCR and viral culture, respectively. The antigen test was 100.0% specific but only 40.9% sensitive for diagnosing infection compared to RT-PCR. Interestingly, SARS-CoV-2 contagiousness is highly unlikely with a negative antigen test since it exhibited a negative predictive value of 99.9% compared to viral culture. Furthermore, a cycle threshold (CT) value of 18.1 in RT-PCR was shown to be the one that best predicts contagiousness (area under the curve [AUC], 97.6%). Thus, screening people with antigen testing is a good approach to prevent SARS-CoV-2 contagion and allow returning to daily activities.
tl;dr: There's good evidence to say a negative result on a rapid antigen at-home test is a reliable indicator of non-contagiousness. (Which does not excuse or justify my actions in testing the kid in this case, I was wrong.)
posted by MiraK at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

Someone up above said "...it's a test we all do all the time and it's not like the result would be a secret or stigmatizing."

Nope. I don't do this all the time. I have three kids every weekend and I've never tested them once. And the only time I got tested was when I had symptoms and actually had COVID last August. I have four rapid tests from the government that I'm saving in case I suspect exposure again, but I haven't used them and I've had them for months.

If someone tested my kids without my permission I wouldn't take my kids to that house again. It is a huge breach of trust. It would be like serving my kid meat if I was raising them vegetarian. (Not exactly the same, of course, but the same kind of breach of trust.)
posted by tacodave at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2022 [6 favorites]

I will admit to being puzzled over some of the responses here. As a GenXer, when I was a kid over at a friend's house their parents could even yell at you when you and your friend inevitably did something stupid. The parents sent the child in question to a gathering at OP's house knowing that the child had recently been exposed to covid, without having tested the child and without notifying OP, and then meaningfully lied to OP about the extent of to which the family had been infected. The fact that the parents had the temerity to take offense at OP asking their kid to test -- something that frankly should be normalized to the greatest extent possible -- is astounding considering the extent of their manifold wrongdoings. What was OP supposed to do? Send the child immediately home and then hope that no one had been infected? Would it be incumbent upon OP to inform the parents of the other children present that their child had possibly been exposed? To the outraged parents in this thread, how would you react if the untested kid whose entire family had been infected had passed on covid to your child who then infected your family? I get it that people may not like the idea of their child being asked to take a rapid test, but I think a lot of the ire is badly misplaced when the real wrongdoers here were the possibly-infected kid's parents. I have a friend whose sister visited her mother and mother's boyfriend knowing that she had been exposed to covid but assuming she had not been infected and not saying anything. The sister and mother's boyfriend are now dead.
posted by slkinsey at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2022 [20 favorites]

Another vote for not overstepping. I agree with everything slkinsey mentioned above. I also don't agree with the comparison to a 23andMe test -- collecting a sample for a covid test does NOT involve DNA testing of the subject, and it doesn't test for something that a person intrinsically is born with. It's a test for a transmissible pathogen, which means the results of this test can potentially affect people who have been in contact with the subject. No one cares if you have the genes for curly hair, but people around you are going to care if you test positive for a virus that can be passed on easily in various settings.

If it were my kid who did a rapid test at the request of the host family, I wouldn't care. If I were the parent of a child who went to a get-together and was potentially exposed to someone who might have covid, I would want to know.

It seems like depending on where you live/work, the ubiquity of covid testing varies. We do PCR tests weekly at my work, and I use rapid tests every so often in cases when there is a high potential for exposure. So for me, testing is a regular thing and not a big deal. I can see why some people might be uncomfortable with it, especially if it's not something that they do regularly.
posted by extramundane at 12:49 PM on June 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

(DNA collection of kids will be a HUGE issue moving forward in time. I really do think parents of young kids should think about this and what they are comfortable with, and WHO they are comfortable with having their child's DNA). A swab is literally collecting DNA, whether it goes to a covid test or not. I also couched my comments that this isn't a current concern, because it's far fetched for these scenarios, but it is literally collecting DNA.

I would have been the kid upset at being asked to test, but not sturdy enough to refuse. There are lots of 11 year old like that. It's inappropriate to not ask the parent of the kid first, and the test was of limited value. I'm glad this worked out and hopefully this discussion would help those who might be in this situation, or one like it.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just chiming in with my two cents.

Answering the very narrow question of: is it okay to ask an 11 year old if they will take a COVID test because you have an immunocompromised family member? I would say yes.

I think a self-administered COVID test is not invasive, very much akin to a thermometer. I think the test is non-invasive enough that a 11 year old can validly consent to taking the test. If another parent temperature checked my kid, or COVID checked, I would be fine with it.

It would be very different if another parent drew blood from my child to test, took a urine sample to drug test, or took saliva to submit to 23andme (and I don't even have an issue with 23andme itself-I've done it, but I think it would be inappropriate for another parent to collect and send that info out for that purpose).

I think exigency also plays into it here. If you knew you were gonna COVID test everyone before they came over, you had an opportunity to ask for parental consent as a requirement for the kid to come over in the first place. Or, if you somehow knew the parent would not consent to their kid taking a COVID test, then overriding that seems problematic. You'd simply have to tell the kid to go home/send the kids elsewhere.

I will note that there are some qualifiers here for your specific encounter. Depending on the individual child's maturity, the specific interaction you had with him (I.e., how much pressure was there), and relatedly, where were the other kids in all this (if they were present for all this, then that could have made the kid feel more obliged to consent). I'll also agree with others that, the situation is also colored by the fact that if you did have a vulnerable family member in the first place, you ideally should have required COVID testing from everyone as a condition on coming over (with parental consent).
posted by TheLinenLenin at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2022

Best answer: since these tests are in fact a reliable measure of whether someone is contagious

Don't get me wrong, I use them this way too, but there's evidence that this isn't true. News article summary (emphasis added):
The study looks at 30 people from settings including Broadway theaters and offices in New York and San Francisco where some workers were not only being tested daily but were, because of rules at their workplaces, receiving both the antigen tests and a daily test that used the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, which is believed to be more reliable.

On days 0 and 1 following a positive PCR test, **all** of the antigen tests used produced false-negative results, even though in *28 of the 30* cases, levels of virus detected by the PCR test were high enough to infect other people. In four cases, researchers were able to confirm that infected people transmitted the virus to others during the period before they had a positive result on the rapid antigen test.
I'm sorry I'm going to skip trying to thoroughly read the study you cited at the moment, may do later, but from what I can tell, it's a lab-based study so the fact that four instances of transmission were actually found to occur in the real world (among 30 cases) is stronger evidence (in my opinion / to me).

That said, I use the tests the way you do -- what else can we do? I just encourage some degree of skepticism.

I'm glad you all have made up. I don't think anyone has said this yet, but a lot of times with COVID I notice that the situation is really stressful, and all the options are bad. Different parents might handle it different ways, but the real issue is not those differences, it's that things are really stressful and no great options exist. I also feel they should have told you.
posted by slidell at 10:35 PM on June 22, 2022 [12 favorites]

My two cents — I would not test someone else’s kid without their permission, but I would not be mad at all if someone tested mine. I think your acquaintance here behaved much more badly than you did (and indeed if they’d been honest, this whole situation could have been avoided). I get the stress though — you didn’t pick this family but you need to make nice with them for your kid, and our current social norms for how to manage this health risk are contested.
posted by eirias at 4:25 AM on June 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

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