Teacher deaths raise alarms as new school year begins

Teachers in at least three states have died after bouts with the coronavirus since the dawn of the new school year, and a teachers' union leader worries that the return to in-person classes will have a deadly impact across the U.S.

AshLee DeMarinis was just 34 when she died Sunday after three weeks in the hospital. She taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School in Potosi, Missouri. A third-grade teacher died Monday in South Carolina, and two other educators died recently in Mississippi. It's unclear how many teachers in the U.S. have become ill with COVID-19 since the new school year began, but Mississippi alone has reported 604 cases among school teachers and staff. The New York City Department of Education alone lost 31 teachers among 75 employees whose deaths were blamed on the coronavirus. Across the U.S., the American Federation of Teachers lists 210 union members who have died.

In Oxford, Mississippi, 42-year-old Nacoma James taught at a middle school and helped coach high school football. He died Aug. 6 during the first week of classes. Another Mississippi teacher died Sunday. History teacher Tom Slade recently posted on Facebook about his battle with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus. Slade was teaching in-person when the academic year started on Aug. 6. In South Carolina, Demetria “Demi” Bannister, 28, died three days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, her school district said in a news release Wednesday. Bannister taught third grade in Columbia.

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