Parents could be criminally charged after knowingly sending child with Covid to school and sparking outbreak

·3-min read
File High school medical students wear face masks in class during a tour  in the Willowbrook area of Los Angeles (AP)
File High school medical students wear face masks in class during a tour in the Willowbrook area of Los Angeles (AP)

The parents of a student in Marin County, California, could be criminally charged after they continued sending their children to school for seven days despite knowing that one of them had tested positive for Covid-19, according to school officials.

Around 75 students of the Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, California were forced to quarantine, and seven others, including the child’s sibling, tested positive for coronavirus.

The child tested positive for the infection during the week of 8 November, but both the children continued to attend school for the rest of the week, according to Brett Geithman, superintendent of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District, reported Associated Press.

It was only after the Marin County Public Health department contacted them on 18 November the school district came to know about the positive case in the school, Mr Geithman said.

“We noticed you didn’t enter student X into the database” of students who had Covid-19, Mr Geithman said district officials were told.

Dr Matt Willis, the county’s public health officer, told CNN: "In this case both the school and public health were given inaccurate information by the parents, which led to a prolonged interval of exposure.”

"This is not only a violation of basic ethics, it’s a violation of law,” he added. "Violation can lead to a fine or criminal prosecution as a misdemeanour. Because of the seriousness of this violation we’ve referred the case to the District Attorney."

The parents did not inform the school about the positive test or return multiple calls from public health contact tracers, Mr Geithman said.

The school notified all the parents of the students who were exposed by sending out a test message on the night of the same day they were informed by the health department, urging them to bring the child to the school for Covid-19 testing the next morning.

After more than 50 students and staff members were tested, the school found a total of eight positive cases, including the child and his sibling. Three others were suspected school-based transmission, and three others were suspected to be household-based.

Students were quarantined in the school’s modified quarantine, in which students were allowed to attend school but barred from extracurriculars.

The quarantine period coincided with Thanksgiving week which led to dozens of cancelled plans.

Mr Willis said that the family “had cited that they were not clear on the protocol to isolate the child after the positive test” when contacted by the school principal.

Schools have an indoor mask mandate in place.

“Had those children been unmasked, we would have seen a lot more transmission,” Mr Willis said. “We depend on one another to prevent spread and this is kind of a stark and unfortunate lesson in what happens when we don’t follow the protocols.”

The district has issued a “corrective action” to the family but did not reveal what that was. The superintendent said the family of the child caused a “safety risk” to other students, staff and the school community and could have easily led to an explosion of Covid-19 cases if the families had not been informed prior to Thanksgiving break.

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