Misinformation and wild, unproven theories about the novel coronavirus have been spreading almost as rapidly as the virus itself in recent months. Meanwhile, cold hard facts about COVID-19 are hard to come by, because the virus is so new, and everything is being studied in real time. That is no reason for parents to take matters into their own hands and experimenting with their kids. But one Reddit user recently discovered a Facebook moms group that had decided to hold coronavirus parties, just like the old-school chicken-pox parties, and it is raising some eyebrows.
“So I was randomly added to a mom group on Facebook even though I’m not a mom,” began the post by pink_batty, which has since been taken down by the AmItheAsshole subreddit moderators due to violating their ban on COVID-19 content. “I saw a bunch of these moms posting that they wanted to gather their kids together for ‘playdates,’ and their intentions are similar to that of pox parties. The idea is to build immunity.”
We’ll just step in here real quick to reiterate that chicken-pox parties are also a bad idea, now that there is a proven vaccine for the virus. Once upon a time (just a generation ago), this wasn’t a crazy fringe concept, as parents intentionally exposed young children to a child who currently had the chicken pox, because the younger you are, the less severe the virus is — in most cases. The problem is, that ignores the risk of getting shingles later in life, once the virus is in your body permanently.
“I made a post that it is cruel to intentionally expose your kids to make them sick,” pink_batty continued. “I didn’t expect the responses I got, which were mainly along the lines of ‘my kid my choice’ or ‘don’t tell me how to parent my kid.’ I told these moms that their kids deserved better.
Then I got banned for ‘insulting different parenting techniques and shaming moms.'”
As much as we’re anti-mom-shaming, this woman really has a good point. Being against coronavirus playdates isn’t about criticizing “parenting techniques”; it’s about not wanting people to put children and an entire community’s health (or the world’s health) at risk. Even with our limited knowledge of COVID-19, we know the similarities to chicken pox are few. For one thing, children are dying of coronavirus symptoms (albeit at a lower rate than adults), and it’s pretty difficult to tell which ones will suffer more severe cases than others. For another, these kids’ parents don’t have immunity (the way the parents of kids with chicken pox likely do), so if they contract it and bring it home, they’ll spread it to the adults in their family and beyond.
That’s a point many on Reddit made.
“It’s marginally safer for children, but they can still get severe symptoms and even not severe cases can cause permanent lung damage, as well as increase the spread to more vulnerable individuals because now their whole family is exposed,” sir-winkles2 replied. “Please report that group. That is absurdly irresponsible and dangerous that they are spreading these ideas to others.”
“COVID parties? Really?” MoriDBurgermesitera asked incredulously. “You know what? Go out there and shame some bloody mums. Really bloody dig into them. Tell them for me, please, that piss-farting around on Facebook is not research and they are not infectious disease experts.”
As with any Reddit post, there’s always the possibility that this whole story is made up. Even if it is, it’s pretty likely that coronavirus playdates are happening somewhere. Given the way anti-vaxxers are treating news of COVID-19, we’re bracing ourselves for more of this kind of behavior.
Just last month, Jack Rubinstein, a doctor in Ohio posted an op-ed in the Cincinatti Enquirer saying that he thinks parents should expose children to the coronavirus. He argued that doing so “will likely increase the number of people with some degree of immunity.”
The board of the Cincinnati Pediatric Society swiftly responded an op-ed of their own, calling Rubinstein’s idea dangerous.
“To date, it is uncertain that infection protects from a future infection or illness due to the virus,” wrote Lauren Huff, Meredith Frost, and Abigail Stein, doctors representing the board. “Even a small change in COVID-19 could mean people again being susceptible to infection and developing illness. Whether those who were infected during the first wave of illness will be immune to a changed strain is an unanswered question.”
Both of these op-eds came out before the revelation that some infected children have been suffering from a deadly syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome, causing dangerous inflammation of their organs. Still, they put some numbers into perspective: “[B]ased on conservative models and data, if 25% of the children under 18 in the Cincinnati metropolitan area were infected, we would expect about 7,500 hospitalized children and 900 admitted to the ICU, many who will not survive. These numbers reflect all children, not just those who are at higher risk of serious complications due to underlying health conditions.”
That’s a lot of sick kids in just one city. We’re not interested in making that happen on purpose.
Read these books with your kids to explain the coronavirus.