An unvaccinated elementary school teacher in the United States who took off her mask to read to her students ended up broadcasting Covid-19 to more than half of them in May – and they infected other students, family members and community members, informed officials from California health on Friday (27).
The case is an example of how easy it is to undermine efforts to protect children too young to be vaccinated, said the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The teacher went to work despite having Covid-19 symptoms, and took off her mask to read to young people, according to information sent to the CDC by a Marin County public health team in the weekly statement of deaths and infections. . The teacher thought the symptoms indicated an allergy, not an infection, according to an investigation.
The class had 22 students, and 12 became infected, including eight of the 10 students who sat in the first two rows. The case occurred despite the many layers that seek to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
“The school required teachers and students to wear masks inside the classrooms, and interviews with parents of infected students suggested that student adherence to mask use and CDC distancing measures was high. However, the teacher took off the mask on some occasions when she read aloud to the class”, says the statement.
“Throughout this period, all the tables had a distance of almost 2 meters”, informed. “All classrooms had high-efficiency portable air filters, and windows were left open.”
That wasn’t enough to protect the kids.
Eventually, 27 people, including the teacher, became infected. None became seriously ill and all recovered. The cases that were analyzed involved the Delta variant, although researchers said they could not test all that were infected.
The CDC highlighted the case as an example of how schools need to follow all the recommendations if they are to protect students and staff.
“The introduction of the virus into a classroom by a teacher who worked at the school, while she was both symptomatic and unvaccinated and who was not wearing a mask while reading aloud to the class, resulted in cases within the classroom, at school and between the families of students and staff in the community.” Walensky said during a White House press conference.
“We know how to protect our children at school. We have the tools”.
CDC’s recommendations for schools include vaccination as the number one measure to protect everyone. “Vaccination is the main public health strategy to end the Covid-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools to safely resume face-to-face learning, as well as extracurricular activities and sports”, says the agency.
Children under the age of 12 cannot get vaccinated, and the CDC said it is important that adults around them are vaccinated to protect them.
Dr. Lisa Santora, the county’s deputy health official, said officials have been urging teachers to get vaccinated since January, but that many have not yet been vaccinated. “We saw firsthand that it wasn’t the children who made the teachers sick. It was the other way around”, said Santora to CNN.
Santora claimed that Marin County organized an event for “Super Saturday” to encourage teachers and staff to get vaccinated, but some teachers have not yet been vaccinated. “Adults are underestimating the risk of hospitalization when they decide not to get vaccinated”, she told CNN.
She reported that 90% of people in hospitals with Covid-19 in the county are currently unvaccinated – and many are in their 30s and 50s.
The elementary school outbreak was a warning to the county that the Delta variant would make outbreak prevention more difficult, Santora said.
“We had some adults who were part of the outbreak – they were parents of the kids at school – who were vaccinated. That was another indication for us that Delta was different,”signed.
“Among the five infected adults, one parent and the teacher did not get vaccinated. The others were fully immunized”, according to a document. “The vaccinated adults and one unvaccinated adult became symptomatic, with fever, chills, cough, headache and loss of smell. No school staff became ill”.
The county was able to conduct an intensive contact tracking operation to generate a good picture of what happened. Several children appeared to have been infected during a sleepover, and some students infected by the teacher appear to have infected their siblings.
Testing the majority of exposed children was essential, as many never developed symptoms.
“The school was prepared with all mitigation strategies,” said Santora. “If it wasn’t for Delta, I don’t think we would have seen this.”
Despite this, the CDC concluded that schools can safely reopen for face-to-face classes if they are careful.
Los Angeles County officials studied cases at their schools between September and March. They counted 463 cases among students during this period that could be linked to an exhibition in schools, and 3,927 among employees who worked in person. The rate was much lower in the community as a whole over the same period, they report.
“In schools with safety protocols for prevention and containment, the case rate in children and adolescents was 3.4 times lower during the peak of winter compared to rates in the community”, wrote.
“This analysis reflects transmission patterns before the most transmissible variant [a Delta] become the predominant variant in the United States. A multi-pronged prevention strategy, including masks, distancing, testing and vaccination of children and adolescents over 12 years old, will remain essential to reduce transmission as more students return to the classroom.” they stated.
“These data from a large and diverse county provide preliminary evidence that schools had a relatively safe environment during the 2020-2021 school year.”.