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Yesterday, I posted an article by an economist who wrote that schools are not super spreaders, and that the rate of transmission of COVID has been very low among students and teachers. Some readers got angry at me for posting this article. Let me be clear that I am not a scientist or a doctor. I do not know whether it is safe to reopen schools. I am as uncertain about the right course of action as many other people.
I am not qualified to offer any guidance. The decision about reopening depends on the community and expert judgment. Everyone should follow the science, wear a mask, practice social distancing both indoors and outside, and wash their hands frequently. It may be safe to reopen schools in some places but not safe in other places. What is important to know is that the COVID is surging again in many states, that the infection rate is rising nationally, and that this is a contagious and deadly disease. Be informed.
The stories below tell what happened to two teachers. They loved teaching; their students loved them. It is not clear where they became infected with the disease.
HOWARD – Even after a diagnosis of COVID-19, Heidi Hussli didn’t plan to give up teaching.
After being hospitalized last week, she told a friend she planned to teach via video the week of Sept. 14-18.
Hussli, who’d most recently taught in-person on Sept. 8, “said she would Zoom with her kids from the hospital,” the friend said via text message.
But “by Sunday, her condition worsened.”
Hussli, who’d taught German for 16 years at Bay Port High School, was unable to teach again. She died Thursday morning at a Green Bay hospital.
Family members, in a statement distributed by the Howard-Suamico School District, said the 47-year-old mother of one had recently tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s not known when Hussli, of Suamico, was infected with the coronavirus.
She’d taught classes in person Sept. 1, 2 and 8.
Hussli followed social-distancing protocols and wore a face mask while teaching, district communications director Brian Nicol said.
Hussli taught two International Baccalaureate classes, each of which had 15 to 20 students enrolled, the district said. Because Bay Port has split its student body into groups that attend on opposite days, the classes would have seven to 12 students attending in person. The remainder watched via a video feed.
She had not been in the classroom since being diagnosed and had “no close contact” with students after learning she was infected with COVID-19, district officials said.
In South Carolina, Margie Kidd, a veteran elementary school teacher, died of COVID.
Margie Kidd loved to teach.
She was good at it and had spent 26 years moulding youngsters.
But doing the thing she loved most put her at risk of contracting COVID-19, her family says, and contributed to her recent death.
Kidd, 71, died at Coastal Carolina Hospital in Hardeeville after complications from COVID-19 on Sept. 28, first reported in-depth by the Jasper County Sun Times.
She was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, and spent the beginning of her life in the city. After she married Frank, the couple moved in 1972 to Bluffton, where they lived for more than 30 years.
She earned her teaching degree in Savannah and then began her more than two-decade career at Ridgeland Elementary School, first working with kindergartners and later moving to first grade.
Kidd’s daughter, Essa Jackson, told multiple news outlets that her mother, who was active and healthy, was nervous about going back to school in person with so many COVID-19 cases in the area. She said her mother wore a face shield, mask and gloves wherever she went.
In August, Jasper County teachers returned to school to conduct state-mandated, face-to-face assessment activities and instruction for preschool through eighth-grade students. It was the first time students had returned to the school since the pandemic began in March.
Kidd was initially released from the hospital despite testing positive for COVID-19, but soon after was readmitted after calling an ambulance because she had trouble breathing. She was eventually put on a ventilator for 21 days until her death.
“My family believes that being in the school building during the pandemic did have something to do with her getting sick,” Jackson told the Jasper County Sun Times. “She was very afraid of going back to work and catching COVID-19, but she felt like she didn’t have a choice because she needed to work to pay her bills because my father was just getting over having colon cancer and heart surgery this summer, so she was the only one working.”
The Jasper County School District released a statement about Kidd’s death.
“We lost a most beloved member of our school district family,” it said. “She served the people of Jasper County as a professional educator for 26 years. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends and co-workers at RES.”
The district is providing grief counselors for Kidd’s coworkers and students.
As of Oct. 5, more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections were associated with schools across the state, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported. There were 741 among students and 301 among staff.
In the Jasper County School District, fewer than five COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among faculty and staff at both Ridgeland Elementary School and Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School, according to DHEC.
Two private schools in the county, John Paul II Catholic School and Thomas Heyward Academy, have reported fewer than five positive cases among students at each school.
None of the cases within the Jasper County schools was confirmed within the last 30 days, according to DHEC data.