How Delta Edition Infiltrated an Elementary School Classroom
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an illiterate elementary school teacher infected with the highly contagious Delta variant spread the virus to half the students in the classroom, eventually infecting 26 people.
The unusually detailed study, which comes as school districts nationwide, seems certain to intensify debate over vaccine mandates in schools. A handful of school districts, including New York City, have already announced vaccine requirements for teachers and staff.
Others may follow suit now that the Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, said: “The most important thing we can do to protect schoolchildren, especially those who are too young to be vaccinated, is to ensure that teachers and school staff including the adults in their lives to be vaccinated.” which was not included in the report.
The study was one of three new CDC reports that focused on schools or children. In another study, researchers found more evidence that schools can be low-risk environments when they combine several precautionary measures. But that research was done before the spread of the Delta version.
A third report focused on vaccination rates for adolescents. The White House announced Friday that half of all 12 to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. But the new study shows that vaccination rates for this age group remain highly uneven across the country.
Together, the studies highlight both how much scientists have learned about the safety of children in schools – and how uncertain now that the delta version has arrived.
The classroom outbreak occurred in Marin County, Calif., in May. Neither the school nor the staff members and the students involved were identified.
The teacher first showed symptoms on May 19, but worked for two days before being tested. During this time, the teacher taught a class of 24 students without masks, despite regulations requiring both teachers and students to wear masks indoors.
All students were too young to be vaccinated, which is only authorized for people 12 years of age and older.
On 23 May, the teacher reported testing positive for infection with the coronavirus. Over the next several days, 12 students also tested positive.
“I thought I respected its infectiousness,” said Dr Lisa Santora, deputy health officer for Marin Health and Human Services and author of the report, of the Delta variant. But its efficiency in getting ahead of the class left him “astonished and humbled”.
In the classroom, infection rates were roughly in line with the seating chart. Everyone in the first row tested positive, up to 80 percent in the first two rows.
In the last three rows, only 28 per cent students tested positive. “If the teacher doesn’t have a mask, go to the back of the class,” Edward Travor, an infectious disease fellow at the University of Maryland Medical Center, said in a Twitter message.
Six students from another class in the school also tested positive for the virus. Out-of-school Community Spread: At least eight parents and siblings of infected students, three of whom were fully vaccinated, were also infected.
State health researchers sequenced virus samples from several positive cases and found that all were infected with the delta variant. Samples from at least 10 students in the two grades were genetically indistinguishable. The results suggested that the cases in both grades came from the same outbreak.
Researchers said the outbreak was likely both from Delta’s high level of infectivity and the fact that the teacher didn’t follow recommended safety precautions.
“We have to make sure that both schools and individuals are working together to make sure we are safe,” said Tracy Lam-Hine, an epidemiologist at Marin County Health and Human Services and author of the new report. “It can’t be just one or the other.”
In other areas of the country, the toll on the community may be even higher. Marin County has the highest vaccination rate in California. The report noted that 72 percent of eligible people in the surrounding community were fully vaccinated, and suggested that the higher rates may have prevented further transmission.
In another new study, researchers focused on case rates in Los Angeles County, where some students and teachers attended school in person over the past year, while others did so remotely.
Schools opening for in-person learning needed to take a variety of precautions, including symptom screening, masking, physical distancing and contact tracing. During most of the period between September and March – and especially during the winter surge – the case rates for both teachers and students in schools were lower than they were in the county at large.
Understand the mandate of vaccines and masks in the US
- Vaccine Rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNtech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, paving the way for increased mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies are increasingly making vaccines mandatory for employees. Such a mandate is legally permitted and upheld in court challenges.
- mask rule. In July the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of guidance given in May. See where CDC guidance will apply, and where states have established their own masking policies. The fight over the masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state restrictions.
- Colleges and Universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education workers. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more supportive of the mask mandate for students, teachers and staff members who have had their shots. are not.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers. Many hospitals and major health systems require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, citing the growing caseload fueled by the Delta variant and the stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even as their Even within the task force.
- New York City. Indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations require proof of vaccination of workers and customers, although enforcement doesn’t begin until September 13. The city’s sprawling school system would require teachers and other education workers to have at least one vaccine. Dosage until September 27 without the option of weekly testing. City hospital staff must also get a vaccine or be subject to weekly testing. Similar rules apply for New York state employees.
- at the federal level. The Pentagon announced it wants to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers “no later than mid-September”. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to routine testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
The findings are consistent with previous studies, which found that when schools combine multiple protective measures, case rates in schools are often lower than those in the surrounding community.
“School for youth is a safe place in many ways, because it is so structured and supervised,” said Dr. Santora, who has a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old returning to school in person this fall. .
But studies on school mitigation measures, including the Los Angeles report, were conducted before the outbreak of the Delta version. The variant is about twice as long as the original version of the virus, and is now responsible for nearly all infections in the United States.
Whether similar precautions will keep variation in schools this year remains uncertain, and many schools have opened without the safety measures that public health experts recommend.
Siobhan Flynn, who teaches first grade at a public charter school in the Washington area, is worried about classes starting Monday. The school where Ms Flynn works is using a layered safety approach that includes a masked mandate, socially distancing desks and random testing for students.
“Children need to stay in school, but I wish more money and planning had gone into safely opening schools,” Ms Flynn said. “Many people would feel much safer if all employees were vaccinated.”
Vaccination rates have been rising in recent weeks as Delta continues to increase the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide. But parents are concerned about sending young children back to school even though they are yet to be vaccinated.
According to a third CDC report, the FDA first authorized vaccines for children ages 12 to 15 in May, and by July 31, more than a third of them had received at least one shot. More than half of 16- to 17-year-olds who were eligible for the vaccine months earlier had received at least one dose.
But vaccination rates vary greatly across the country. In Mississippi, only 11 percent of teens are fully vaccinated, compared to 60 percent in Vermont, the researchers found.
An infectious disease researcher at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Westin Branch-Elliman said in an email that she expects schools to be “more involved in promoting immunizations for all eligible people in the school community through things like vaccination clinics. Improving access to schools and removing barriers.” For. “
Clinical trials of vaccines are underway in young children. Pfizer has said the results should come in September.
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