Three teachers in Arizona were sharing a classroom for two hours a day teaching online classes during the pandemic.
Despite following protocols – social distancing, wearing masks and gloves, and using hand sanitizer – they were all sickened by the coronavirus.
Kimberley Chavez Lopez Byrd, 61, died June 26, less than two weeks after she was hospitalized. She had worked for the Hayden Winkelman School District for 38 years.
The two surviving teachers, Jena Martinez and Angela Skillings, spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon on CNN Tonight Monday and said that it is not yet safe for kids, or teachers, to return to the classroom.
‘Our schools are not ready’
As state’s across the country prepare to reopen schools for in-classroom learning, teachers are trying to figure out the safest way to resume in-person education.
While some schools have given the option for online courses, others are still working on plans to return to the classroom.
Martinez said that when they began to do their online schooling from campus, they had plans in place meant to keep them safe from the virus.
We followed everything we were supposed to do,” Martinez said, pointing to CDC guidelines and their own school’s mandate for how to safely come back to campus. “While we were there, we did distance ourselves.”
But that didn’t stop them from all catching the virus, with Byrd being the first. The other teachers received a call that their colleague was in the hospital, had been tested for Covid-19, and was going to be put on a ventilator.
Martinez and Skillings both say that even with good hygiene practices in place, it’s too soon to return. They know because they’ve experienced it first-hand.
“Schools are not ready to open,” Skillings told Lemon, adding that schools are scheduled to reopen in Arizona on August 17.
Skillings noted that schools have been closed down since March, so there is no sure way to know that transmission between children in schools won’t be an issue.
“There’s no documentation that children aren’t going to transmit it back and forth in the classroom or that it isn’t going to affect them harshly,” Skillings cautioned. “Our schools are not ready. We are not prepared to open up. We’re supposed to open up on the 17 of August and there’s no way that even the teachers are ready for that to happen.”
Still recovering from effects of virus
Even though the surviving teachers have begun getting negative tests back, they are still experiencing the residual effects of the virus.
Skillings said that while the first days with the virus weren’t too bad, she began to experience fever, cough and body aches.
“At first mine was light and easy. But after about two weeks it started getting rough,” Skillings said. Even a month later she’s still feeling the effects of the virus. “I’m at week four, and I still have the cough and sometimes fatigue.”
Martinez told Lemon that one of the main coronavirus symptoms that she suffered from was a terrible fever.
“My symptoms came in with fatigue being first,” she said, adding that her symptoms “started creeping in” after being tested.
“It wasn’t until that Friday when my fever kicked in that it got really bad. And I was like that for almost two weeks. And once the fever broke I started feeling like I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Even though she has retested negative, Martinez said she still has to be treated for the virus that has made her weak and tired.
“I’m still taking breathing treatments to relieve the tightness in my chest. There is still weakness in my body and fatigue,” she said.
CNN’s Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.