Public health officials in Marin County are talking with prosecutors about the possibility of criminal charges for a couple who ignored a positive COVID test and sent their two children to school to spread the virus around.
We learned earlier this week that the parents of two kids who attend Neil Cummins Elementary School in San Anselmo knowingly sent one of their children to school last month after the child had tested positive for COVID-19. The parents allegedly received the positive test result on November 8, and were directed to keep both of their children out of school for 10 days and to inform the school of the test result. Both siblings were back in school November 9 and 10, and for the ensuing school days, until a county health official contacted the school on November 18 to inquire about the documentation of the case.
This led to the testing of students who were in close contact with the siblings, which surfaced six more cases of COVID in the school. And a total of 75 people in the school community would end up in modified quarantine for 10 days.
The situation remains under investigation by law enforcement, but as the Chronicle reports, criminal charges are not off the table.
"We are aware of a potential violation of a health order at Neil Cummins Elementary School in Corte Madera," said Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli. "At this point, law enforcement authorities are working on the case and when their investigation is finished, they will submit it to my office. We will then review it to see whether any laws were violated."
KTVU reported Thursday that Frugoli's office is now actively reviewing the case, and Frugoli said, "As in all cases, we are bound by legal obligations to make sure we can prove a law was violated at a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt before proceeding forward."
According to state statute, this will likely only result in a misdemeanor charge of failing to comply with the state's quarantine order in the pandemic.
The parents have apologized, as KTVU reports, and they've apparently claimed that they did not understand the public health orders around positive tests. The names of the parents have not been released.
Superintendent Brett Geithman of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District tells the Chronicle that all is back to normal at Neil Cummins Elementary School, and the outbreak appears to have passed. All the children who tested positive last month have now returned to school.
Marin County has prided itself on having generally low COVID case counts and very high vaccination rates. Many of the kids at Neil Cummins Elementary had already gotten their first vaccine shots, but given the timing of the outbreak and the date when kids 5-11 became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine (Oct. 29), none had yet received their second dose.
"This is an unfortunate example of how non-adherence to public health orders and recommendations can increase risk for others," said Marin County Health Officer Matt Willis and Deputy Health Officer Lisa Santora in a joint statement this week. "These protocols were created to lower COVID-19 risk for staff, students, and their families."
They noted that this San Anselmo case was the only one they were aware of in which a household disobeyed quarantine rules following a positive test.