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Despite safety protocols, Arizona first-grade teacher dies of coronavirus

(Kimberly Byrd -- Hayden Winkelman Unified School District photo)

PHOENIX — Despite following health recommendations outlined for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a first-grade teacher in Arizona’s Hayden Winkleman Unified School District died last month due to the coronavirus.

Kimberly Byrd, 61, died on June 26, according to a statement from the district.

“They [teachers] took all the precautions in the world,” Hayden Winkleman Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Gregorich told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

“They wiped down their spaces, they had their own spaces in different parts of the room — they just did everything the CDC recommended and even more.”

Despite the precautions, Gregorich said Byrd became sick in mid-June and continued to work. A few days later, two of Byrd’s colleagues also tested positive for COVID-19.

Byrd and the other two educators had been using the same room to teach online summer courses.

Gregorich said he does not believe safety precautions outlined by departments such as the CDC are sufficient to keep school personnel safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He added Byrd would want her story told in order to “help leaders make a better decision than to send kids back into school in the middle of a pandemic.”

On June 29, Gov. Doug Ducey announced his decision to delay the reopening of Arizona schools’ in-person instruction until at least Aug. 17.

“I would say she was the heart and soul of our primary grade [school],” Gregorich said.

“She was the one that always lifted everybody up. She was a reading specialist; I used to joke that she could teach a rock to read.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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