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Des Moines teacher has died from COVID-19, district confirms

September 2, 2020 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A longtime special education teacher with Des Moines Public Schools has died of complications from the coronavirus, the district confirmed late Tuesday.

District spokesman Phil Roeder said the teacher at the Ruby Van Meter School for intellectually disabled students fell ill after an out-of-state trip and died this week. He did not release the teacher’s name or gender for privacy reasons.

The death is believed to be among the first of an Iowa educator during the pandemic. A 73-year-old gym teacher at Iowa City Regina High School died in April. The state’s coronavirus website lists only one known death of an educator out of 1,125 tied to the virus.

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Roeder said the teacher had not been in the classroom for several months. Des Moines schools shut down in March and are planning to begin the school year next week with virtual learning.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is pushing for the district to open schools for 50% in-person instruction. District leaders say that cannot be safely done given the spread of the virus and have filed a lawsuit challenging the governor’s mandate. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Roeder said the death is a “stark reminder of the seriousness of COVID-19” and why the district is pushing for safety measures. He said a survey found nearly 1,500 employees who have underlying health conditions that could put them at higher risk, and that does not include those who are over age 60.