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School Food Distribution Center Worker Tested Positive For COVID-19, Some Parents Say They Should've Been Told Patient Worked In Cafeteria

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The rights of parents versus the rights of a sick employee – that's the debate brewing after a worker tested positive for coronavirus while handing out food at a Chicago public school.

Legal experts told CBS 2's Jermont Terry that both parents and the school district could be right in their contentions about it.

Parker Community Academy at 6800 S. Stewart Ave. in the Englewood community, where the now-COVID-19-positive employee worked, was no longer passing food out Tuesday night. But some in the community were left wondering why the Chicago Public Schools were not upfront about where the person worked.

The sign on the door at Parker Academy now informs people looking to pick up food to go to another location. Last week, CPS shut down the food distribution center at the school after someone tested positive for the virus there.

The food distributions are open to anyone in a CPS neighborhood. However, the community learned about the positive case through a letter from CPS that was sent to parents.

It said, "A person who was working in the building during the closure tested positive for COVID-19, and out of caution, the food distribution at our site is on an operational pause."

But that letter did not tell parents what CBS 2 discovered – that the coronavirus-positive person worked in the cafeteria. Concerned parents tell CBS 2 they feel the district left out important facts.

"It's a parent's worst nightmare and a nightmare for the public school system, as well trying deal with the situation in appropriate and respectful manner," said CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller.

Miller understands why parents feel they should have known the positive person handled the food they brought home.

But legally, he said: "This is one of those situation that that law just isn't ready for. We're in uncharted territory about the rights of parents versus the rights of a sick person."

CPS said once it learned of the positive case, it proactively alerted the school community and stopped people from picking up food – bust most important, protected the employee's rights.

"There's no legal answer here," Miller said. "It's the question of doing the right thing by the schools and doing the right thing by the kids, and protecting the rights of a sick person."

The closed food distribution center at Parker Community Academy is expected to reopen in 14 days.

CPS did not say if other food distribution centers at schools have been shut down due to positive COVID-19 cases.

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