An elementary school teacher in California infected half of their class after going to work visibly sick and taking their mask off while with the students.
According to a report published Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Marin County teacher was one of two staff members who hadn’t been vaccinated for the coronavirus. Health officials found that 12 of the teacher’s 24 students tested positive for COVID-19 and four parents of kids in the class were also later infected. Ten other students at the school also tested positive, bringing the total number of people infected by school’s outbreak to 27, including the teacher.
The report said the outbreak was from the delta variant of the coronavirus and none of the patients required hospitalization.
It offered a timeline for the teacher, who began feeling congested and fatigued on May 19 but went to work anyway, believing the symptoms to be allergies. The teacher continued working through May 21 — despite beginning to cough and experiencing fever symptoms — and got tested that day. Students started getting sick on May 22. The teacher informed the school of their positive test results on May 23.
The report indicates that all the students impacted were too young to be vaccinated.
A seating chart provided in the CDC’s report shows how the virus spread from the infected teacher in the classroom, with several students in the front two rows testing positive along with a select few seated in the back.
While four of the 10 students infected outside of the impacted class had siblings in the central classroom, health officials were’t clear on how the other six, all in another grade, had caught the virus. The two classrooms are separated by “a large outdoor courtyard” and all classrooms had the doors and windows open. Each room also had high-efficiency air filters.
“This outbreak of COVID-19 that originated with an unvaccinated teacher highlights the importance of vaccinating school staff members who are in close indoor contact with children ineligible for vaccination as schools reopen,” the report concludes. “The outbreak’s attack rate highlights the Delta variant’s increased transmissibility and potential for rapid spread, especially in unvaccinated populations such as schoolchildren too young for vaccination.”
The report adds that the level of transmission of the delta variant “appeared lower” than some previous reports, possibly because the city where the outbreak happened has a high level of vaccination, 72%.
The scientists added their support of universal masking inside of schools.
“New evidence of the Delta variant’s high transmissibility, even among fully vaccinated persons, supports recommendations for universal masking in schools,” the authors wrote. “Strict adherence to ... masking, routine testing, facility ventilation and staying home when symptomatic are important to ensure safe in-person learning in schools.”
In California, masks are currently required inside the classroom.