12 students were infected with COVID when an unvaccinated teacher removed mask

COVID rates among in-person students and staff in Los Angeles County schools last winter were lower than in the county as a whole
By: | August 30, 2021

A dozen students and several others tested positive for COVID last spring after an unvaccinated, unmasked and symptomatic teacher in Marin County, California, read to an elementary school classroom, the CDC reported late last week.

The teacher began experiencing COVID symptoms on May 19 and continued to work for two days before taking a test on May 21. During this time, the teacher read to the class unmasked even though the school had required face coverings, according to the CDC’s study.

On May 23, several COVID cases were reported among staff members, students, parents, and siblings connected to the school. It wasn’t until May 25 that the Marin County Department of Public Health was notified by the elementary school that on May 23 the teacher reported receiving a positive COVID test, the CDC said.

Among the 12 students infected—all of whom were too young to be vaccinated—eight were seated in the first two rows when the teacher read aloud while four were in the back three rows. Six other students in the school were infected as were eight parents and siblings; three of those individuals had been fully vaccinated. the CDC said.

Among the 27 total cases, at least 18 were caused by the delta variant. The incident shows the effectiveness and importance of vaccinations, and how crucial it is for schools to follow the wide range of COVID prevention procedures.

Some 72% of eligible persons in the city where the school is located were fully vaccinated, which likely stymied a wider outbreak.

“Vaccines are effective against the delta variant, but the risk of transmission remains elevated among unvaccinated persons in schools without strict adherence to prevention strategies,” the CDC said. “In addition to vaccination for eligible persons, strict adherence to nonpharmaceutical prevention strategies, including masking, routine testing, facility ventilation and staying home when symptomatic are important to ensure safe in-person learning in schools.”

In another study released last week, the CDC found that COVID rates among in-person students and staff in Los Angeles County schools last winter were lower than in the county as a whole.

From Sept. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, a total of 463 school-associated cases were reported among in-person students and staff, leading to case rates ranging from 110 per 100,000 in September to 859 in December 2020. However, case rates among all children and adolescents aged 5–17  in the county ranged from 167 per 100,000 in September to 2,938 in December 2020, the CDC said. noting the study was conducted before the delta variant caused the latest COVID surge.

“The findings suggest that implementing recommended prevention measures might protect children, adolescents, and adults from COVID-19 in TK–12 schools,” the CDC said. “The level of protection appears to be higher in children and adolescents than in adults, which is promising for children aged <12 years because no COVID-19 vaccine is currently authorized for this age group.”

This school year, all Los Angeles ISD students and employees, regardless of vaccination status, must participate in a districtwide weekly COVID testing program to return to in-person instruction.