An unvaccinated school teacher who took off their mask to read to students ended up infecting more than half of them in May and they went on to infect other students, family members and community members, California public health officials said on Friday.
The teacher came to work even though they had Covid-19 symptoms and then took off their mask to read to the young students, a team at Marin County Public Health reported in the CDC’s weekly report on death and disease. The teacher assumed the symptoms indicated allergies, not infection, the investigators found.
In the classroom of 22 students, 12 became infected – including eight of ten front row students.
“The school required teachers and students to mask while indoors; interviews with parents of infected students suggested that students’ adherence to masking and distancing guidelines in line with CDC recommendations was high in class. However, the teacher was reportedly unmasked on occasions when reading aloud in class,” the report read.
“Throughout this period, all desks were separated by six feet,” it added. “All classrooms had portable high-efficiency particulate air filters and doors and windows were left open.”
It wasn’t enough to protect the kids.
Eventually, 27 people, including the teacher, were infected. None were seriously ill and all recovered. Those cases that were analyzed involved the Delta variant of coronavirus, although the researchers said they were not necessarily able to test everyone who may have been infected in the outbreak.
The CDC highlighted the case as an example of how schools need to follow all recommendations if they want to protect students and staff.
“The introduction of the virus into the classroom by a teacher who worked in school, while she was both symptomatic and unvaccinated and who was unmasked when reading aloud to a class, resulted in cases within the classroom, across the school and among families of students and staff in the community,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told a White House Covid-19 briefing.
Kids under 12 are not eligible for vaccination, and the CDC says it’s important for the adults around them to get vaccinated to protect them.