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An unvaccinated, unmasked elementary school teacher infected 22 students and four parents with COVID-19 in California, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While experiencing nasal congestion and fatigue, the teacher taught for two days before getting a COVID-19 test. Although the teacher thought their symptoms were simply allergies, she later tested positive.
The elementary school requires teachers and students to mask while indoors, but the CDC reported that the teacher was unmasked while reading aloud to the class.
"The outbreak’s attack rate highlights the delta variant’s increased transmissibility and potential for rapid spread, especially in unvaccinated populations such as schoolchildren too young for vaccination," according to the report.
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The teacher became symptomatic on May 19, and received a positive test on May 21. However it was too late, as the virus spread to students who showed symptoms on May 22, the reports said.
Twelve of the teacher's students tested positive, half of the students sat in the front two rows of the class.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky addressed elementary school outbreaks during a White House press briefing Friday. She said schools have the tools to protect their children such as universal masks, vaccinations and social distancing protocols.
"It’s human nature to protect our children above all else. And the best way to protect them is to get everyone who is eligible vaccinated and surround children who are not yet vaccine eligible with people who are vaccinated to effectively shield them from COVID harm," Walensky said during the press briefing.
The CDC found a subsequent outbreak at the same school; six unvaccinated students tested positive from a different classroom. The outbreak came from one student who hosted a sleepover on May 21 with two classmates from the same grade.
All three of these students later tested positive for COVID-19. The CDC investigators believe the outbreaks in separate grades were still linked.
The investigation found other cases of four different students from separate grades. Each of the students had siblings who were infected by the unmasked teacher. The CDC said it's likely everyone in the respective homes was exposed.
Walensky urged parents and schools to use the "tools to protect children" to avoid further outbreaks in vulnerable communities.
"Universal masks in schools work to prevent outbreaks and reduce the risk of children bringing the virus home to others who are vulnerable. This is not forever; this is for now," Walensky said.
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Unvaccinated, unmasked teacher leads to COVID outbreak at school