A New York City mom shared how her 12-year-old was exposed to the novel coronavirus while playing soccer and urged parents to step up to protect their community.

By Maressa Brown
November 20, 2020
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Despite the fact that COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country, many families are feeling intensely exhausted by the challenges of the pandemic. But whether due to exhaustion, complacency, or downright negligence, there's no excuse for failing to take the necessary precautions to protect your family—and others. This is just part of the powerful message recently shared by a New York City mom whose 12-year-old daughter might have caught COVID-19 during a travel soccer game.

"I wasn't going to share this, but I think doing so is a public service, so here we go," wrote Kathleen Schmidt on Twitter. "It's likely that my 12-year-old daughter has COVID. The past 3 days have been crazy, but I think telling the story of how this happened is important."

She went on to explain that her daughter's exposure came during a team soccer game. While her daughter's league took precautions and parents followed protocol, the issue that hadn't occurred to Schmidt was parents from other teams not following protocol. "I was alerted Sunday morning that a kid from an opposing team they played on November 8 tested positive," she recalled. "Our team's season immediately ended and all the girls are now under quarantine."

Schmidt shared that she wrote a strongly worded email to the league president and a board member, they told her that the kid on the other team who tested positive already had a sibling with COVID-19 at home when her parents allowed her to play the game against her daughter's team. "The parents of a soccer player on an opposing team knew they had a kid at home with COVID, yet still attended the game AND allowed their kid who HAD BEEN EXPOSED to Covid at home play the game," Schmidt wrote on Twitter. "My mistake: assuming parents would not do that."

Credit: Getty Images

She went on to explain that she felt it necessary to come clean on this publicly because it's "a perfect example of community spread." Schmidt added, "Because you can't trust other parents will do the right thing. Because I made a decision to allow my kids to play outdoor sports with protocols and one of them was exposed anyway."

Schmidt also noted that she saw other parents in the group chat "trying to convince themselves that no way were their daughters exposed" because of their positions on the soccer field. But she pointed out that they likely were.

On Monday, Schmidt's daughter presented with COVID symptoms: "chills, headache, cough, stuffy nose, bad stomach," she explained. "I scrambled to get her tested. It's not easy to get a test right now."

The overwhelmed mom found a testing location in another town, and also did her own contact tracing, getting in touch with "every single place" she had been since the day of the possible exposure. She says she is in touch with the school nurse daily, alerted every teacher personally, and has been updating her daughter's league who plans to contact everyone on the team that the girls played on November 12. Meanwhile, Schmidt's daughter is in isolation, and her older child's nurse, teachers, and coaches were alerted, as well.

"The Department of Health told me we must act as if my daughter has tested positive," shared Schmidt. "That means a 24-day quarantine for us. I will absolutely follow protocol. I always wear a mask and social distance, but now, we can't leave the house. Thankfully, we work from home and can have stuff delivered."

The incident led the NYC mom to conclude that "being a responsible parent when COVID is involved takes a lot of work—notifying people, updating people, getting tested, etc. But you are doing the responsible thing because it is not just about you/your family. It is about your community. I hope that this thread helps others see what can happen if you 100 percent trust that people are complying with COVID protocol. My advice: Assume that no one is complying. Assume that parents are sending kids to school anyway. And as always, wear a mask."

But parents shouldn't be left to fend for themselves in terms of figuring out guidelines to keep their families safe. With a lack of comprehensive coronavirus safety guidelines, it can be a minefield to figure out the best decision for every family situation.

Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist in Wilton, Connecticut, urges parents like Schmidt, who are striving to do their best in a nearly impossible situation, to give themselves a break. "Because we are trying to minimize community spread, there should be more consistent community protocols," she notes. "It helps to have consistency and clarity in the community across the board—both at school and on the playing fields. It can't be just parents shouldering the responsibility to make choices that impact many households and, realistically, an entire community."

After all, as she points out, parents are already trying to minimize conflict at home and have healthy relationships, not always being the bad guy saying no to everything, enable their kids to develop their skills in sports so they remain competitive, and keep them connected socially and physically active. "This is a lot to ask for parent, especially during a time where the risk is increasing," says Feliciano.

Ultimately, parents would do well to embrace self-compassion, she says, adding, "We are all learning as we go, and we have to be kind to ourselves."

And while it might feel disheartening to have to assume no one can be trusted right now, remaining on-guard is ultimately in families' best interests. But if more parents heed Schmidt's warning, it should get easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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