HACKETTSTOWN, NJ - Thursday morning at 8:40 a.m. Cherie Clemens got the call from Morristown Medical Center informing her that her 16-year-old daughter was COVID-19 positive.
Her 16-year-old daughter, the one who was attending class in-person at Hackettstown High School at the time.
Editor’s note: Patch is omitting the child’s name because she is a minor.
"I then immediately called the school to let them know that I was coming to pick up my daughter so that she would not infect anyone if possible. She was there and following all of the school recommended procedures," Clemens said. "Her temperature was taken upon drop off like everyone else’s child."
Clemens hadn't been thinking about the COVID-19 test because the family was already working hard at her daughter’s mental health issues, which inadvertently led to the COVID-19 test.
"Tuesday evening on my birthday we went to Mattar’s for dinner. When we came back (her daughter) was having a rough time and crying,"Clemens told Patch.
According to Clemens, her daughter was suffering an acute mental health crisis that led to them taking a trip to Morristown Medical Center to seek treatment.
"Upon arrival at the hospital her temperature was taken. She was asked all the usual COVID questions. We were then brought back to the ER where we spent the next 12 hours.
"Upon arriving and getting settled into the room they did blood work they did a urine analysis and they did a mandatory COVID test," Clemens said. "Again, after 12 hours, we were told we could be discharged with a plan for treatment."
Because there were no symptoms, no known exposure and it was not the focus of their visit, Clemenssaid the test fell to the back of her mind.
"The COVID test was not something that was on my mind when we were leaving," she said. "I received handwritten discharge papers with no mention of the COVID test."
But that perfunctory test came back positive and set off a firestorm on Thursday. Before Clemens arrived to pick up her daughter, Hackettstown High School Principal Kyle Sosnovik had already gone to the teen's classroom.
"He called her out in the middle of class and then had to inform all of the students that were in the same class as her for more than 10 minutes," Clemens said. "Kids these days aren’t stupid. They put two and two together."
As soon as news of the positive test broke, when Superintendent David Mango emailed the school community, social media began lighting up with complaints and accusations.
"So I am that Mom who sent their child to school with COVID-19. If anyone knows me, I am in the medical field and would never for any reason put anyone in harms way knowing that she was sick," Clemens said.
As for next steps, while the district begins its contact tracing procedures, Clemens’ daughter will likely undergo more testing and observation.
"Her pediatrician recommended me to have her retested because (it) could be false positive," Clemens said. "The Board of Health Department from Warren County has been in contact with me and, according to their protocol as long as she is symptom-free, she may go back to school in 10 days. Again not sure what the school rule is. I was told through the robocall as everyone else was that self-quarantine would be until Sept. 18."
For her part, Clemens told Patch she has a message for the greater school community.
"Please have a little sympathy for a 16-year-old child who is suffering with a mental health problem to begin with and now has to deal with this on top of everything else," she said. "Kids are cruel. Talk to your kids. Be Kind."
Clemens’ daughter told Patch she wanted her story told so that all who suffer from mental illness be heard and not be belittled or bullied.
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