Parents defied a county health department’s orders and sent their COVID-infected child to school last month, triggering an outbreak among the students, officials reported.
Seven other students at Neil Cummins Elementary School in Marin County, California, subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 and 75 students had to quarantine, which meant they could not travel or visit relatives over Thanksgiving week, the Marin Independent Journal was the first to report.
One of the seven students with COVID-19 was the sibling of the first to test positive.
Their parents were told in early November that one of their two children tested positive for COVID-19 and they were told to keep both children at home and to notify the school in the town of Corte Madera. They did neither, officials said.
The infected child attended school for seven days before school officials discovered the student had tested positive when a county health official called to ask why the school hadn’t recorded the COVID-19 case in its database.
Once local officials learned what had happened, “we just dropped everything,” Brett Geithman, superintendent of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District, told the Journal as he and his staff arranged immediate testing and contact tracing. All parents in the school were notified of the breach.
None of the other children who tested positive were hospitalized or had significant symptoms, officials said.
The family that triggered the COVID-19 outbreak has not been identified, but a county official said the parents must be held accountable.
“If it is accurate that a parent or guardian did not follow required protocols and knowingly sent their COVID-positive child to school, there should be consequences because they have jeopardized the health and safety of other children, their families and school staff,” Marin Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke said in a statement.
“More than ever before, we need to count on people to make decisions that show care and concern for all.”
Geithman credited strict adherence to COVID-19 safeguards such as universal indoor mask-wearing for limiting the spread of cases in school.
County officials said they’re not aware of a similar case of parents sending a child with COVID-19 to school and failing to alert school officials.