Dozens of elementary school students in California were forced to quarantine over the Thanksgiving holiday because one family sent a child to school after the child tested positive for the coronavirus, public health and school district officials said.

The child attended Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera, near San Francisco, for seven days in November while infected, said Brett Geithman, superintendent of Larkspur-Corte Madera School District in Marin County. As a result, about 75 students had to quarantine, and seven of them tested positive for the virus — the child’s sibling and six other schoolmates, he said.

Geithman said there were no severe cases of the disease, “but it could have been a lot worse.” And it meant that a number of families had to cancel holiday plans because of quarantine protocols, he said.

“This family’s decision to send their children to school — knowing that one of them had covid — was reckless. It jeopardized the health and safety of our entire school community,” he added.

Marin County Public Health officer Matt Willis said in a statement that public health officials were able to confirm the student attended school during the infectious period in violation of local isolation and quarantine orders.

Officials have identified all families of affected students and are working with the school to prevent further spread, the statement read.

Almost a year after their parents and grandparents became eligible, children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible for the two-dose coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer. (Luis Velarde/The Washington Post)

During the second week of November, one of the child’s parents took the child to get tested for the coronavirus, Geithman said. He said the family got the positive result the same week and were informed of the proper protocol from the county health department.

Protocols from Marin Health & Human Services and Larkspur-Corte Madera School District state that parents and guardians should notify the school immediately if a student is being evaluated for covid-19 and abide by the local isolation and quarantine order. The order states that those “who have been diagnosed or suspected to have COVID-19” must isolate at home for 10 days, and those who have had close contact with an infected person must quarantine for the same amount of time.

But the family continued to send the child to school, exposing schoolmates and teachers, from Nov. 9 through Nov. 18, at which time the health department notified the school district that the child was infected, Geithman said.

Geithman explained that during contact tracing procedures, the family did not provide the name of the child’s elementary school to the health department and did not respond to follow-up calls from public health officials to get that information. Once the health department was able to obtain the information, school officials were notified, he said. The Marin County health department did not confirm the details of the incident.

School district officials sent text messages on Nov. 18 to the families of children in the classrooms that were involved, instructing them to bring their children to school for testing the next morning, Geithman said. He said about 50 children were tested before entering the classroom and were put under “modified quarantine,” which allows them to attend school — where masking and other precautions are taken — but not extracurricular activities, child care or other gatherings, including Thanksgiving get-togethers.

All quarantining had ended by Nov. 30, he said.

County public health and school officials said this is the only known case of a family knowingly sending a student with the virus to school.

D.C. public schools are back in person with some exceptions, but parents and guardians are debating whether it’s safe as the pandemic continues. (Hadley Green/The Washington Post)

Failure to comply with the local isolation and quarantine order is a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. A spokesperson for Marin County Public Health said there will be a penalty for the violation, which will be determined during the investigation.

Willis, with Marin County Public Health, told CNN that “because of the seriousness of this violation,” the case has been referred to the district attorney. A spokesperson for the Marin County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

In addition, the school district has taken “corrective action” against the parents, which Geithman said is confidential.

“All of us have been in this together. All of us, up to this point, have been following the rules,” Geithman said.

“This is a call to action,” he added. “This is a call to every single person to act with integrity.”

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