Around 50 students gathered in the gym of Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, Calif., along with 10 staff members the morning of Nov. 19.
Dr. Brett Geithman, superintendent of Larkspur-Corte Madera School District in Marin County, told CNN that he, the school’s principal and its school nurse tested them for COVID-19. The night before, the school district sent out emergency text messages to the children’s parents.
One their classmates was infected with the virus and had been attending class with them for seven days, said CNN. However, that child’s parents hadn’t notified the school.
“This is not only a violation of basic ethics, it's a violation of law.” Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis told CNN. “Violation can lead to a fine or criminal prosecution as a misdemeanor. Because of the seriousness of this violation we've referred the case to the District Attorney.”
After the Nov. 19 testing event, eight total cases were found. Of those, two were the initial child and their sibling, three were suspected school-based transmission and another three were suspected to be household-based.
Overall, 75 students of the San Francisco-area school were required to go into quarantine, through the Thanksgiving holiday.
Geithman said the family who violated the COVID-19 protocols claimed they did not know about them even though the school district published their own protocols online. He also said that Marin County Public Health officials instructed the family to quarantine.
According to Willis, the public health department is notified of COVID-19 cases by all laboratories in the area. The department also follows up with schools to confirm that students are complying with quarantine protocols.
A healthcare provider notified the department of the Neil Cummins Elementary School case on Nov. 8, said CNN. During an attempt at contact tracing, the family did not provide the name of their child’s school, Geithman told the outlet. Although multiple calls were made to the family to report the name of the school, they never answered.
Eventually, the health department found the schools name and notified its administration.
“In this case both the school and public health were given inaccurate information by the parents, which led to a prolonged interval of exposure.” Willis said.
CNN said a statement from Marin County Public Health explained that its Student & Family Handbook on COVID-19 Safety and Marin County's Isolation and Quarantine Public Health Order require all individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to isolate themselves for at least 10 days.
“We did not know this positive case existed.” Geithman said in a statement to CNN. “Upon calling the household, we learned that the student tested positive, did not inform the schools, and then sent the student and their sibling to school for seven days.”
Larkspur-Corte Madera School District has penalized the child’s parents. Details of the action are confidential, said CNN.
“They've since issued apology letters to me, the principal, and the teachers involved and recognized their lack of judgement," Geithman said. He said all children exposed have recovered from COVID-19 and there was no serious illness.
Most families in the school district, around 98 percent, adhere to COVID-19 protocols, said the superintendent.
“This is a community that takes COVID protocols very seriously and acts on it. This is a one-off where a family made a terrible decision that impacted many students and comprised the health and safety of our schools," Geithman said.
Apart from the quarantine requirements, students and staff are required to wear masks in side district classrooms.
“If we didn't have strict COVID protocols, the aftermath of this could've been much worse,” he added.