Woonsocket school secretary, 45, dies from COVID-19 complications

WOONSOCKET, R.I (WLNE) – A middle school secretary in Woonsocket has died from COVID-19-related complications, the school district confirmed Tuesday.

The staff member was a secretary who worked in the main office of Hamlet Middle School.

Woonsocket Teachers’ Guild President Robert Stewart said she leaves behind a fiancé and two children.

“I recall just going into the school, thanking her for what she did, introducing myself this year, and I just feel intensely sad about this because so many of the Guild members all feel the risks that are involved here.”

Stewart said it was courageous that she reported to work every day during the pandemic. He said the middle school is in the hybrid learning model, where some students report in-person.

“You have a fair number of students in half one day, half in the next, and we’re just really, really sad about this. We realize the decision to go to work every day is a courageous decision and we’re trying to be a part of the solution, but it has these risks.”

However, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) said there is no indication that the staff member contracted the virus from inside the school.

“Unfortunately, there was a COVID-19 associated fatality of a staff member in a Woonsocket school that had all students learning virtually,” RIDOH spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said in a statement. “There is no indication that this person acquired COVID-19 in school. This individual was not a teacher and had no student contacts. This person had several very significant underlying medical conditions.”

The secretary was 45 years old.

“Yes, she wasn’t a teacher, but this building has people everywhere in it, so there’s just nothing but sadness,” Stewart said in response to RIDOH’s statement. “I find it offensive when people talk about underlying conditions.”

He hopes her death serves as a wake-up call about the dangers of this virus.

“This is obviously going to be a wake-up for some people who keep talking about flu and how it’s not serious and ‘no one I know’ and all that. This is someone we know. This is someone who died who was very young, and it’s very real to us.”

Woonsocket Superintendent Patrick McGee released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“We extend our profound condolences to her family and friends. As Secretary at Hamlet Middle School, (she) left an indelible mark on everyone that she encountered. (Her) dedication to our school community, bright smile, and kind demeanor towards colleagues, students, and families will never be forgotten.”

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Woonsocket