The New York City Department of Education reported on Monday that between March 16 and April 10, 50 school staffers died due to complications caused by the novel coronavirus.
The staffers’ cause of death were reported by family members to DOE officials and the agency has yet to confirm each person’s cause of death with the Department of Health, the agency said.
Out of the 50 staffers, 21 were teachers, 22 were paraprofessionals, two were administrators. Others included a facilities staffer, a guidance counselor, a food service staffer and two central office employees.
One of the employees also worked at one of the city’s regional enrichment centers which watch over the children of pandemic frontline workers like emergency medical personnel, transit workers, pharmacy workers and grocery store employees. In the city’s 100 REC’s, children are able to do school work, are given three hot meals a day and are taught how to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.
“This is painful news for too many of our communities—each number represents a life, a member of one of our schools or offices, and the pain their loved ones are experiencing is unimaginable,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza in a statement. “We will be there to support our students and staff in any way they need, including remote crisis and grief counseling each day.”
From now on, every Monday the agency will provide updated numbers of staffer deaths from the previous week, according to DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot. April 13 marked the first time that the agency has released semi-detailed information on staffer deaths despite repeated requests from parents, teachers, lawmakers and reporters since schools were first shuttered due to the novel coronavirus on March 15.
On March 23, principal of Brownsville’s Brooklyn’s Democracy Academy Dez-Ann Romain became the first reported DOE employee to die from complications caused by the novel coronavirus, Chalkbeat first reported.
During a Panel for Educational Policy meeting on March 30, Chancellor Carranza confirmed two more DOE employees, a paraprofessional and a school safety agent in District 28, had passed away to the novel coronavirus. Since then, the DOE has been mum on publicly announcing other department employees infected, hospitalized or who have died because of the virus further drawing complaints from parents and faculty alike on a lack of transparency in the agency.
“In the unfortunate reality of the public health crisis we are facing as a City, we need to ensure that our schools, students, and employees have the support they need,” said Barbot in a statement. “We are tracking COVID-19 fatalities in order to effectively deploy crisis support through guidance counselors and social workers remotely and when school buildings reopen.”
Barbot explained in the statement that the information on the deceased was collected “through a variety of mechanisms.”But later in the statement the agency’s details on exposure become murky.
“It’s important to note that the City has been at widespread community transmission for over one month, which means the sources of infections are unknown,” the statement says. “The NYC Health Department cannot confirm the details or locations of exposure for every case, and is not confirming individual cases.”
The agency added that the number of novel coronavirus related DOE staffer deaths should not be considered a subset of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily coronavirus briefing numbers since those numbers are confirmed by the city health department.
This story first appeared on amny.com.