California parents may face misdemeanor charge for knowingly sending COVID-positive child to elementary school

Parents in Northern California, who knowingly sent their COVID-19-positive child and a sibling to elementary school last month, are reportedly causing a small outbreak at the institution, and could face legal penalties for their actions, the Associated Press reported.

What are the details?

According to the news agency, the parents could face a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine, prison time, or both for violating a Marin County health order requiring people who test positive for the virus to isolate themselves for at least 10 days.

The county’s public health officer, Dr. Matt Willis, told the AP that a decision on whether or not the parents will be charged will be made early next week.

“It’s a violation of the law that we’ve put in place,” Willis said. “More importantly it’s also a violation of just basic ethics of community responsibility.”

The student in question reportedly tested positive for the virus the week of Nov. 8, but continued attending school the rest of the week and the following week. The parents never notified the school about the positive test, and reportedly did not return multiple calls from school officials.

Willis noted that when the parents were finally reached by the district, “they had cited that they were not clear on the protocol.”

The health officer countered that it’s “quite simple” for parents to know not to send their infected children to school, and noted that neither language barriers nor economic factors played a role in the family’s decision.

Both that child and their sibling, who later tested positive as well, are students at Neil Cummins Elementary School in the town of Corte Madera, located just north of San Francisco.

What’s the background?

KNTV-TV reported over the weekend that it wasn’t until Nov. 18 — more than a week after the initial positive test — that Marin County officials called the school to ask why the students hadn’t been recorded in their COVID-19 case reports.

In response to the call, district officials scrambled to gather testing kits and reportedly swabbed more than 50 students. In all, they determined three positive cases were likely transmitted at the school, while five other positive cases were likely transmitted outside school.

“This is very serious. This is a situation where we know that for some of our students and staff with underlying health conditions that actually getting COVID, it could be a matter of life and death,” Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools, said.

According to KNTV, the district has already taken some action against the parents in question, though they wouldn’t say what it entailed. That action, it should be noted, is separate from the impending misdemeanor charge that may be brought forward by the county.

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