Summer is almost over, but you know what isn’t? The pandemic. Unfortunately, we still have a battle ahead of us, and if we let our guard down, we can still get hurt. This painful lesson was recently presented by a case study published by the CDC, in which an unvaccinated teacher infected half of her classroom.
The Marin County elementary school in California had been more careful than most. Masks were required indoors at all times, desks were spaced apart, and students were taught to maintain social distance. But all it took was one event.
It happened on May 19, and started with some fatigue and nasal congestion. The unvaccinated teacher wasn’t feeling very bad, but she was feeling a bit off. She shrugged it off for a day or two, dismissing it as allergies. She was normally masked, but she made an exception for storytime when she took her mask off to read to her class aloud. That’s all it took for the delta variant to sneak into the class.
The teacher got a test on her second day of symptoms and at the end of the affair, 12 of her 22 students later tested positive. The mask was only off for a few minutes.
“Evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that multi-layer prevention strategies – such as vaccination for all children and adults who are eligible; masks for all students, teachers, staff, and visitors; ventilation; cohorting; physical distancing; and screening testing – work to prevent the spread of Covid in schools,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, at a press briefing on Friday.
We know that children aren’t as vulnerable to the disease as adults are, but for parents, the idea of acceptable risk to their children is, of course, hard to manage and accept — and opening up school has proven quite the challenge.
This month alone, in Brevard County, Florida, 1,623 children were infected, and over 8,000 were quarantined. In the Atlanta area, thousands of positive cases were confirmed — and several other areas have suffered similar outbreaks. A simulation carried out by a CDC-funded lab found that in elementary schools without either masks or regular testing, 3 in 4 children could become infected in the first three months.
In the US, just like in many other countries, schools have become ideological battlefields, with parents hoping to open up schools in accordance to the guidance offered by doctors opposed by parents opposing masks (and often, vaccinations as well). But if teachers aren’t vaccinated, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the virus starts spreading in the classroom.
The outbreak “highlights the importance of vaccinating school staff members who are in close indoor contact with children ineligible for vaccination as schools reopen,” the report concludes.
The report seems to add even more evidence that vaccine mandates in schools may become required, especially as for now at least, many children are not eligible for coronavirus vaccines.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.