Coronavirus News: Brooklyn principal's COVID-19 death elevates concerns for school staff

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The COVID-19 pandemic is now personal for the students and staff at Brooklyn's Democracy Academy, after New York City officials confirmed that principal Dezann Romain died due to complications of the corononavirus.

"This is painful for us," Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement. "I extend my deepest condolences to the Brooklyn Democracy Academy and the family of principal Romain."

But some, now say this first known death of a city public school staffer should be a wake-up call.

"The New York City mayor and the police commissioner had no problem sharing on national television that 98 members of the New York City Police Department tested positive, and our prayers are with them," Councilman Mark Treyger said. "But education department employees deserve to know the truth as well."

Treyger chairs the council committee on education and says he's been pushing the mayor to disclose how many education department employees have tested positive for the virus.

"The city is no longer confirming information about individual cases due to volume, but we support any school that wants to notify their community of a self-confirmed case," the Department of Education said in a statement.

Educators across the city have raised questions themselves, not only about what appears to be an optional reporting policy but also about the very safety of school buildings. Even with the shutdown, more than 400 schools across the city are still open with staff preparing meals and performing other duties.

That leaves them wondering exactly what the protocol is for cleaning and sanitizing, especially after reports of a case of COVID-19.

"This is a broken, irresponsible approach that I believe is endangering the lives and the health of our children and of our school communities," Treyger said.

During one of his daily cornonavirus briefings from City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about those lingering concerns.

"We take each of these cases seriously," he said. "Is there something specific we can act on, we will. There is unfortunately many different sources for which someone may have been exposed. The most important thing is for folks to follow the basic rules. We are just in a whole new world now."

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