A New York City school district is mourning the death of a 36-year-old principal who passed because of coronavirus complications and now the threat of the disease is becoming more of a reality for people who believed they couldn’t be affected.
According to Chalkbeat, a non-profit news site that covers education, Brooklyn principal Dez-Ann Romain passed this week, making her the first known coronavirus-related death of New York City public school staff. Romain ran Brownsville’s Brooklyn Democracy Academy, which served transfer students who struggled at traditional high schools and are unlikely to graduate on time.
“This is painful for all of us, and I extend my deepest condolences to the Brooklyn Democracy Academy community, and the family of Principal Romain,” schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement. “We’ll be there for the students and staff through whatever means necessary during this impossibly difficult time.”
New York City public schools have been shut down since March 16, although principals and teachers were asked to report to their buildings for three days last week. This was a move that caused criticism among educators who worried about their own health and spreading the disease. It’s unclear how Romain fell ill, when the city learned of her illness and what steps were taken, if any, to protect and keep the school community updated.
According to CBS News, it’s also unclear if Romain had underlying health issues, which groups like the Center for Disease Control said could impact how the coronavirus reacts to someone’s body. People who have severe asthma, heart conditions, or underlying health conditions that aren’t well controlled, such as diabetes, are at risk with the coronavirus. Any conditions that cause someone to be immunocompromised — such as cancer treatment, organ transplantations, or poorly managed HIV or AIDS — are also at risk.
Romain could have had any of these conditions or had conditions she wasn’t even aware of that compromised her fight with the coronavirus. The disease is still new and is still being researched.
This serves as a contrast to some government officials who seem to just be focusing on people 65 and older as the vulnerable population. People like 69-year-old Texas Lt Gov Dan Patrick have openly suggested that they’re willing to sacrifice the older generation to save the United States economy and workforce. In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, Patrick said, “No one reached out to me and said as a senior citizen, ‘are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren.’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. And that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that. I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me.”
Donald Trump also focused on older people instead of considering the other folks vulnerable to the coronavirus. In a Tuesday tweet he wrote, “Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!”
Principal Romain’s legacy should serve as a warning to how we talk about the coronavirus and who it’s affecting.
“She gave her all for every teacher and staff member,” said Paul Rotondo, the superintendent who oversees transfer schools. “It will be a long time before we’re able to fill her shoes.”