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Marin school sees COVID-19 outbreak after parents knowingly sent sick child to class

Corte Madera school officials have vowed to take “corrective action” after the parents of an elementary school student knowingly sent the child and a sibling to class despite the child’s having tested positive for COVID-19, spurring a spate of other infections.

As of Friday, school officials said eight children at Neil Cummins Elementary School had contracted the virus and 75 had been quarantined since the family, which has not been identified, allowed its two kids to attend school even after being notified by public health officials the week of Nov. 8 that one of the children was infected. The sibling later tested positive as well, the AP reported.

The school did not become aware of the incident until Nov. 18, when the local health department contacted administrators, Larkspur-Corte Madera School District Superintendant Brett Geithman wrote in a public message on Friday. Under Marin County’s current public health orders, the parents could face a misdemeanor charge for failing to isolate for 10 days after a positive COVID-19 test.

“Our enforcement team is evaluating the circumstances and will respond accordingly,“ Marin County Public Health said in a statement. “Thankfully, this is the only known occurrence of a household knowingly sending a COVID-19 positive student to school.”

The North Bay outbreak is a vivid example of a challenge facing schools across the Bay Area in an uncertain new phase of the pandemic, where only children aged five and above are eligible for vaccines. Meanwhile, ongoing resistance to vaccination in some communities has contributed to unpredictable waves of infection, even as the new omicron variant of the coronavirus has sent a renewed wave of concern through the region.

While Geithman said in a previous message to the district that “99%” of families are cooperating with school infection reporting and safety requirements, he wrote on Friday that the new cases forced dozens of families to cancel or alter plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. In another illustration of the hard-to-track nature of the virus, he said three of the eight cases after the unreported infection were “school-based transmissions,” but did not elaborate on the other instances of illness.

“I understand that there is pandemic fatigue, but we continue to live with these universal rules that when there is a COVID positive, they must quarantine,” Geithman wrote when the outbreak was first announced. “This situation we experienced at Neil Cummins posed great risk to a school of unvaccinated children, some of which have health compromised conditions, and the staff that cares for our students each and every day.”

Lauren Hepler is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: lauren.hepler@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @LAHepler


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