Well, so much for trusting people to do the right thing. A research letter recently published in JAMA Network Open described how 24.0% of parents in the U.S. surveyed—that’s 63 of 263 respondents—failed to tell others when they either thought or knew that their child had Covid-19. Moreover, 21.1% (67 of 218 respondents) permitted their children to break quarantine or isolation rules. And take a wild guess as to the most commonly given reason for not doing such things to protect others around them. It’s a very freedom answer. They wanted to exercise their “personal freedom” as parents. Yeah, let that freedom answer ring in the heads of all those who may have gotten infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as a result.
Looks like the answer to the Eurythmics song “Would I Lie To You?” is “Absolutely Yes” for quite a few parents based on this survey. The online survey conducted from December 8, 2021, through December 23, 2021, also found that 10.1% (47 of 464) of respondents had told others that their children were vaccinated against Covid-19 when their children really weren’t. A team of researchers from Middlesex Community College, the University of Utah Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Denver Center for Innovation, the University of Iowa School of Medicine, and the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs VA Health Care System (Andrea Gurmankin Levy, PhD, MBE; Alistair Thorpe, PhD; Laura D. Scherer, PhD; Aaron M. Scherer, PhD; Jorie M. Butler, PhD; Holly Shoemaker, MPH; Angela Fagerlin, PhD) conducted the study.
Interestingly, the lying about vaccination shot both ways with 12.2% doing the opposite. Yes, 23 of 189 respondents told others that their children were not vaccinated when their children actually did get the Covid-19 vaccine. That suggests that the whole anti-vaccination social pressure in some places was so strong that some parents had to actually hide the fact that their children had followed public health recommendations. Holy pressure to conform, Batman. Isn’t that a bit like feeling compelled to say that you peed in the swimming pool when you really didn’t just because “urine” a situation where peeing in the pool somehow became cool? That’s sort of like the movies Mean Girls, Stepford Wives, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and 1984 all rolled together in one.
Then, there were the 9.7% (56 of 578 respondents) who claimed that their children were older than they were so that their children could get vaccinated. Now, this may not seem to be the same thing lying about your age so that you buy a bottle of Jack Daniels. However, Fagerlin, who’s the senior author of the study and Chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at University of Utah, did emphasize in statement, “Parents might have thought that fibbing about their child’s age was a good thing because it would help them stay healthy and safe from the virus and potentially protect others around them.” She added, “But there was a cut-off age for a reason. The vaccine hadn’t been tested in younger aged children and it wasn’t clear that it would be safe or effective for them.”
The survey showed that quite a few parents weren’t that “testy” either. Nearly a fifth (19.4% or 44 out of 227 respondents) didn’t get their children tested for Covid-19 even though they thought that their kids had Covid-19. Why find out about something when you might have to actually do something about it, right?
What lied beneath all of these half-truths, quarter-truths, or no-truths? As mentioned, the biggest reason offered for not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was the whole personal freedom thing. This included 52.4% of the parents who didn’t reveal that their children were infected with the SARS-CoV-2, 36.5% of those who didn’t properly isolate or quarantine their children, 47.8% of those who broke quarantine/isolation rules, and 66% of those who lied that that their children had gotten vaccinated. Perhaps folks considered personal freedom to mean the freedom to say whatever the heck you want regardless of the truth.
Respondents did offer other reasons for the whole lot of faking going on, so to speak. When it came to covering up their children having Covid-19, 47.6% said that their children did not feel very sick, 46.0% indicated that they wanted their children to feel “normal”, 44.4% didn’t want to miss a event or “fun” activity, 42.9% could not miss nonwork activities to stay at home, 42.9% didn’t believe that their children really had Covid-19, and 42.9% didn’t want their children to miss school. Oh, and guess the reason that 39.7% gave for doing the politician thing, meaning the whole lying thing. They were following guidance from a public figure whom they trusted such as political figure, celebrity, or someone else in the news to do something that was not trustworthy.
Of course, all of these numbers may not represent the true proportion of parents in the U.S. who have lied, fibbed, or half-truthed their way Covid-19-wise through the pandemic. After all, with so many people admitting on the survey that they have lied, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to assume that additional folks were lying that they didn’t lie when answering the survey questions. So, this study could have in truth underestimated the amount of covering up, prevaricating, misrepresentation, capping, fibbing, and lying that has gone on about Covid-19.
Moreover, obviously the survey didn’t cover every parent in the U.S. It was from a sample of 1733 adults in the U.S. with 580 of them having children less than 18 years of age living with them during the pandemic. The average age of these 580 parents was 35.9 years. The majority identified themselves as women (70.2%). The self-identified racial/ethnic breakdown consisted of following: 13.8% being Hispanic, 0.9% non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2.4% non-Hispanic Asian, 14.8% non-Hispanic Black, 67.1% non-Hispanic White, 0.9% more than one race, and 0.2% being White with no ethnicity specified.
Nevertheless, this study did bring forth something that’s been an “underlying” problem throughout the Covid-19 pandemic: the mistaken belief or assertion that all people will voluntarily do what’s necessary to protect each other. Those who have argued against vaccination and face mask mandates have claimed that people will in the end do the right thing when not required to do so. Isn’t that a bit like assuming that all drivers will proceed in a orderly fashion without any traffic lights, traffic signs, speed limits, and consequences if you don’t follow such things? Or a business or workplace saying, “Do whatever you want” or “No shoes, no shirt, no problem?” Imagine how many people would cheat on their significant others or in general if there were no consequences.
The effectiveness of a public health interventions like vaccination and face mask depends heavily on how many people comply with the intervention. The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that unfortunately many people are not going to voluntarily comply with an intervention unless it’s something pleasurable like eating chocolate, smearing things in butter, or smearing oneself in chocolate. Case in point, once face mask mandates were dropped in 2022, despite still being recommended, notice how quickly people began ditching face masks as if they were soiled underwear. Similarly, Covid-19 vaccination rates essentially plateaued soon after workplaces and businesses dropped vaccination requirements. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 16.4% of the U.S. population has gotten the bivalent Covid-19 booster. This is not to say that vaccination or face mask requirements will always be necessary whenever there is an infectious disease outbreak or that anyone should expect people to “mask forever.” But it does highlight the reality that many people just won’t do something unless it is required.
If you are somehow surprised by this study’s results, keep in mind how prevalent and acceptable lying has become in society. It’s not uncommon to see politicians or TV personalities lie to point that their proverbial pants not only have caught fire in a metaphorical manner but also start exploding all over the place. Think about how much misinformation and disinformation have been pushed throughout the pandemic. You could 5G there was a lot of lying going on over the past three years. This has included attempts to discredit legitimate Covid-19 experts as well as people propping themselves up as Covid-19 experts to sell stuff or an agenda. Remember when people were claiming that drinking urine or eating cow dung could somehow protect you against Covid-19. Yeah, those claims were kind of full of you-know-what.
All of this poop has had potentially grave consequences, figuratively and literally. It’s not like telling people on Tinder that you like long walks on the beach when you can’t stand the smell of salt and sand and would rather lie on you couch, literally and figuratively. When you don’t tell others that your child is infected with the SARS-CoV-2, you are putting others at real risk without them even knowing it. What if others end up suffering long Covid, getting hospitalized, or even end up dying simply because you wanted to exert your personal freedom or didn’t want to miss a “fun” activity? That wouldn’t be very fun for everyone else. What can at first seem like a little lie can result in someone lying in a hospital bed or worse.