Two Staffers Die of COVID at Kentucky Elementary School in Two Weeks, Others Hospitalized

An eastern Kentucky elementary school has been shaken by the pandemic after two staff members died from COVID-19 just two weeks apart, while others are now hospitalized.

Bill Bailey, a custodian at the Lee County Elementary school, became the second school staffer to die from the coronavirus on Sunday, according to the school district Superintendent Sarah Wasson. Just two weeks earlier, instructional aide Heather Antle also succumbed to the virus.

"Lee County Elementary staff are strong and resilient, but the loss of people we love is hurting our hearts," Wasson said on Monday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. "Bill worked at Lee County Middle High School for several years before moving to Lee County Elementary, so his impact has reached many staff across our district."

Bailey's son, Austin Bailey, said in a social media post that his father "fought hard against COVID but unfortunately it was too much," according to the news outlet. Austin Bailey added that his father loved his family, enjoyed pulling funny pranks and loved to celebrate holidays such as Halloween and Christmas.

School officials said in a Facebook post Sunday that they were "deeply saddened" by Bailey's death, and that he had a "contagious smile."

"As custodian, Bill always worked hard to make the building shine and he will forever shine a light into all the lives he touched. We send our thoughts and prayers to his family at this difficult time," the school posted on Facebook.

Bailey's death comes just after Antle died from the virus in late August. After her death, Wasson said the instructional assistant was a "special lady who daily made a positive impact on our students and staff with her smile and energetic personality."

At that time, three other employees were hospitalized with coronavirus complications, and two of them were placed on ventilators, according to the Herald-Leader. On Monday, Wasson said that two staffers are now hospitalized.

Information on the vaccination status of each of the affected staffers was not made readily available.

Lee County schools are currently operating under a mask mandate, which Wasson said would remain in effect as "we work to make the best decisions for the safety of all students, staff and our community," the Associated Press reported. Last week, the Republican-controlled Kentucky General Assembly approved a bill to eliminate a statewide mask mandate in K-12 public schools, instead leaving the decision up to local school boards.

Though coronavirus rates remain high within the community, Wasson told Newsweek that there was only one positive case and one student quarantine detected in the district last week.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we have put the worst behind us. COVID rates have been high in our small community and despite our efforts we lost two staff members who we considered family. We appreciate the support our parents and community have shown to our school district and the families of those we have lost," Wasson said.

Kentucky COVID-19
Two staff members at a Kentucky elementary school died from COVID19 just two weeks apart, while others are now hospitalized for the virus. Here, paramedics transport a patient suspected of suffering a severe COVID-19 emergency into an ambulance on September 6, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. Jon Cherry/Getty Images