Arkansas Elementary School Teacher Dies From Coronavirus

October 5, 2020

An Arkansas teacher died from COVID-19, her husband said Friday, the second coronavirus death from the state’s public schools this week.

Susanne Michael, 47, an elementary school teacher from Harrisburg, died Thursday night at a hospital from complications from COVID-19, her husband Keith Michael said. He said his wife had been hospitalized since Sept. 15, the day after she tested positive for the virus.

Arkansas ranks sixth in the country for new coronavirus cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Michael’s death comes days after the superintendent of the Atkins School District died from COVID-19. Arkansas’ schools reopened on Aug. 24.

“Her students loved her,” Keith Michael said. “I would be somewhere with her at the store and her kids would come up running up to her and hug her. She just had a way with kids.”

The Harrisburg School District said in a Facebook post that she “was an outstanding teacher who cared very deeply about the success and wellbeing of each and every one of her students.”

Arkansas is requiring its public schools to be open five days a week for in-person instructions, though they can also offer virtual or hybrid options. Dozens of Little Rock teachers didn’t show up for in-person classes Monday after the local teachers’ union said its members would only teach virtually. The union called off its demand on Monday night.

The Arkansas Education Association this week launched a survey for teachers to anonymously report issues at schools after it said it has received “troubling” reports about unsafe practices.

Harrisburg has had 20 coronavirus cases among its K-12 students, teachers and faculty since June 15, according to the Department of Health, with six active cases. There are 698 active cases in the state’s public schools.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Michael was a “respected teacher with a passion for her students” and called her death devastating for her community and family.

“This is very hard to learn of her death and we are all heartbroken for the loss to her family,” he said in a statement.

The state on Friday reported seven new deaths, bringing its total fatalities to 1,391.

The state’s confirmed cases rose by 778 to 82,309. Its probable cases rose by 180 to 3,470. The actual number of cases in Arkansas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 dropped by 10. Hutchinson said the state had a record-breaking day of tests conducted, reporting more than 13,000 tests from Thursday.

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