Yet another example of how the individual choice not to vaccinate against COVID-19 affects more than the individual.
Back in May 2021, an unvaccinated elementary school teacher in California took off her mask to read aloud to students ineligible for the vaccine. Unfortunately, we all know how the rest of this story goes.
After conducting contact tracing, researchers Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the teacher — who was showing symptoms of the Delta variant when she opted to still come into work and take off her mask — infected 26 people including students, parents, and other community members in Marin County, CA. It is unclear why the teacher chose to come into work despite showing symptoms of the highly contagious Delta variant, or why she opted to take off her mask when the school required masks indoors, especially when children ages 12 and younger are still ineligible to receive a vaccine against COVID-19. The CDC report states that the teacher attributed the “nasal congestion and fatigue” to allergies, but let’s be real — in the midst of a pandemic, everyone should be getting tested if they are showing any symptoms of the virus, even for those who are vaccinated and have seasonal allergies.
The CDC used contact tracing to see how this outbreak unfolded, and it isn’t surprising to discover that children seated closer to the teacher contracted the virus, while students towards the back of the seating chart tended to be safer. “The attack rate in the two rows seated closest to the teacher’s desk was 80% (eight of 10) and was 28% (four of 14) in the three back rows,” reads the CDC report.
New CDC MMWR finds #DeltaVariant can spread rapidly in schools with unvaccinated staff & students. Get a #COVID19 #vaccine. If you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, wear a mask in public indoor spaces in areas with high or substantial spread. https://t.co/T3kFkTbtFd pic.twitter.com/pkYv1RAO7x
— MMWR (@CDCMMWR) August 27, 2021
Hopefully, the report inspires more mask mandates and other safety precautions in educational settings as the school year kicks off.
Schools across the country have different COVID precautions and safety protocols, which only makes it harder and more confusing for parents as they try to keep their kids safe before they are eligible for a vaccine. In Florida, Governor Rick DeSantis fought the federal mask mandate and even threatened to cut off funding from schools should they try to enforce it. A federal judge recently blocked DeSantis’s order, but that doesn’t mean the battle is over. Even in counties and areas where masks are mandated, like Marin County, CA, individuals like this teacher are still choosing to bend the rules, and the consequences can quite literally be fatal.
More and more children are contracting the Delta variant and experiencing symptoms, and it isn’t simply a run with the flu. On August 25, the Houston Health Department reported that a male between the ages of ten and 19 died from COVID-19, despite not having any underlying health conditions. In order to keep people of every age safe, it is vital that everyone wears masks in public spaces and gets vaccinated.