Deadly consequences are the result of schools resuming in-person learning amid the novel coronavirus. Teachers have died as a result of COVID-19 in at least five states since the beginning of the new school year. As the U.S. continues to fail its residents in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, educators worry about the impact that opening schools will have across the country. Since the start of the pandemic, many teachers have expressed their fear of returning back to their classrooms.
According to the Associated Press, while it is unclear how many teachers have been infected with COVID-19 nationwide since the school year began, in Mississippi alone at least 600 cases have been reported among school teachers and staff. Without mandatory safety guidelines and measures in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, this number is sure to increase as students head back to campus. According to the American Federation of Teachers, at least 210 union members have died of coronavirus.
“If community spread is too high as it is in Missouri and Mississippi, if you don’t have the infrastructure of testing, and if you don’t have the safeguards that prevent the spread of viruses in the school, we believe that you cannot reopen in person,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the AP.
While in-person learning is ideal, reopening schools under current circumstances would not only create potential hotspots for the novel coronavirus but reverse any progress made, especially with mask mandates not being present in each state. A lack of safety measures in place has caused many teachers to reconsider whether or not they should quit their jobs. Unfortunately, this choice is not available to all teachers as many have no other source of income and are thus left with no choice but to teach and risk their lives. And as schools reopen, those who come in contact with the staff, teachers, and children participating in in-person learning initiatives are also put at risk.
While COVID-19-related deaths are not new to this school year, recently reported deaths have renewed fears of the virus among all age groups. According to the AP, at the start of the pandemic, the novel coronavirus claimed the lives of dozens of teachers. Despite this, Donald Trump consistently pushed for schools to reopen, claiming that the virus did not affect young people.
Without a national plan in place to protect teachers and students, Trump and his administration threatened to defund and penalize already underfunded schools that don’t reopen under the misconception that children and the young are less susceptible to the virus. “The lower they are in age, the lower the risk,” Trump said at a news briefing at the White House on July 30. “We have to remember that there’s another side to this. Keeping them out of school and keeping work closed is causing death also. Economic harm, but it’s causing death for different reasons, but death. Probably more death.”
Like other statements made by Trump, this too is false. Reports have repeatedly indicated that children and young adults across the country are falling ill and dying as a result of COVID-19. Recent data shows that more than 500,000 children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. According to The Washington Post, nationwide at least six teachers have died in the last month, with some of them being notably young. Among them was 28-year-old South Carolina third-grade teacher Demetria “Demi” Bannister, who died from coronavirus complications Monday, The State reported She had tested positive for the virus on Friday.
Administrators described Bannister as the school’s “Songbird.” “My heart is so heavy right now. We lost an Amazing young Teacher this week in Richland Two. My condolences and prayers go out to Demetria Bannister’s family, friends and school family,” Richland Two district board member Dr. Teresa Holmes said on Facebook. “God has gained another Angel. Please be safe and careful in these trying times of Covid-19.”
Another death this week occurred in Missouri in which 34-year-old AshLee DeMarinis died of COVID-19 complications after spending three weeks in the hospital. “She taught special education, and it was just her calling,” her sister Jennifer Heissenbuttel told The Washington Post. “Her students loved her and her colleagues loved her.” While DeMarinis was already in the hospital by the time in-person classes began, her sister shared she had been in the school preparing for the year a couple of weeks earlier.
As of this report, teachers in Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Iowa, and Oklahoma have died since the start of this fall semester from coronavirus, The Washington Post reported. Yet Donald Trump still demands that schools reopen. “Democrats, OPEN THE SCHOOLS ( SAFELY), NOW! When schools are closed, let the money follow the child (FAMILY). Why should schools be paid when they are closed? They shouldn’t!” Trump tweeted Thursday
Grade schools are not the only educational institutions being affected by the coronavirus. Colleges and universities across the nation have opened only to close within days due to COVID-19 clusters and outbreaks found on campus. At least 36 states across the country have seen coronavirus cases on school campuses, Daily Kos reported. Schools of all levels are struggling to enforce social distancing measures in addition to implementing safety precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, and with some states lacking mask mandates, this task becomes even more difficult.
As of Sept. 9, at least 1,176 new coronavirus deaths and 33,200 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S. As of this report more than 6.3 million in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 191,000 have died as a result, according to The New York Times database.