Unmasked and unvaccinated teacher infects half her class and some family members, says CDC

The unidentified teacher reportedly spread the virus to more than two dozen people

Kelsie Sandoval
Monday 30 August 2021 16:56 BST
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A man wheels a recently purchased air scrubber through a classroom in advance of the school year at a Massachusetts school.
A man wheels a recently purchased air scrubber through a classroom in advance of the school year at a Massachusetts school. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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An unvaccinated teacher went to work while experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and ended up infecting 26 students, staff, and family members in Marin County, California, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

On 19 May, the teacher felt congestion and fatigue, but symptoms escalated to cough, fever, and headache over the following days. The teacher received a positive Covid-19 test on 23 May and starting isolating, but they had already exposed students to the virus by then.

Despite the elementary school’s requirement to wear a mask, the teacher occasionally didn’t wear one when reading to their students, the report said. The teacher was also one of two unvaccinated staff members at the school.

The Marin County Department of Public Health started an investigation on 26 May to assess how many people were infected by the teacher.

Of the 24 students, 12 tested positive, and the likelihood of getting infected increased as the students sat closer to the teacher. While the Covid-19 vaccine is effective against the more contagious Delta variant, the majority of the teacher’s students are ineligible to get a vaccine because of their age.

Beyond the teacher’s classroom, six students in another grade, who were also ineligible for the vaccine, also tested positive for Covid-19. Eight family members were also linked to the infected teacher, including four other students, bringing the outbreak to a total of 26 cases. Of the four adults infected, three were fully vaccinated.

Of the 26 people who got infected from the outbreak, 18 had the Delta variant, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of new cases in the US.

The CDC said this investigation shows the importance of getting vaccinated, especially if you’re an adult working among kids ineligible to get the vaccine where the variant can spread more easily.

Other tactics to stem Covid-19 spread include “proper masking, routine testing, ventilation, and staying home while symptomatic are important to ensure safe school instruction”, the report read.

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