The New York City Department of Education has reported that at least 50 employees have died in recent weeks due to suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to the education blog Chalkbeat.
Dez-Ann Romain, a 36-year-old principal in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Kimarlee Nguyen, a 33-year-old author and teacher in Williamsburg, and Rosario Gonzalez, a 91-year-old teachers' aide in East Harlem, are among the educators who were lost. According to Chalkbeat, 21 of the 50 were teachers, while 22 were paraprofessionals, classroom aides who are typically much lower-paid than teachers. The figures were released after MORE-UFT, a caucus within the city's teachers' union, called for the department to track and report COVID-19 deaths in the same way as other city agencies, such as the NYPD.
It is unknown whether working in schools while they were open might have exposed staff to more danger than an average workplace. Children appear to be less susceptible to the coronavirus than adults, and as NPR's Richard Harris has reported, many may be asymptomatically spreading the virus.
NYC schools closed the week of March 15. Since then, at least 21 states have ordered or recommended schools be shuttered through the academic year, according to a tally by Education Week. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday that New York City's school closure will also extend through the academic year, although the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, countered that it is his decision.
There are also reports of educators and school staff dying of the coronavirus across the country, including in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.