South Carolina teacher, 28, dies from coronavirus: 'God has gained another Angel'

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A third-grade teacher in Columbia, S.C., has died from coronavirus complications just days after being confirmed to have the virus, district officials said Wednesday.

Demetria “Demi” Bannister, 28, a teacher at Windsor Elementary School, was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday before dying Monday, Richland County School District Two spokeswoman Libby Roof said in a statement.

Bannister was last seen in the building Aug. 28, the last workday for teachers before the start of the school year, the statement said, according to The State newspaper of Columbia. The following week, she conducted lessons virtually from her residence.

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“With heavy hearts, (Richland Two) administrators share this information with permission from Ms. Bannister’s parents who wish to remind others about the seriousness of this disease caused by the coronavirus,” Roof's statement said.

The school district said it followed the proper procedures for contact tracing and notified close contacts after learning the teacher tested positive for the virus. It also instructed custodians to deeply clean the school "with EPA approved virucides and electrostatic disinfecting machines,” the paper reported, referring to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Bannister didn't show symptoms while working in the building, officials said.

The teacher started her third year of teaching the third grade on Aug. 31. She previously taught fifth grade at the school — where she had worked for five years.

“I want to express my sincere condolences to Ms. Bannister’s parents, relatives, friends, and school family,” Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis said in a statement. “While gone from us too soon, Ms. Bannister’s legacy lives on through the lives of the students she taught in her five years as a dedicated educator."

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Some of her former co-workers said she was more than just a teacher for her students, adding that she also led the student choir and was known as "Windsor’s Songbird," according to The State.

"Ms. Bannister used her musical talents to bring a great deal of joy to our school,” said Denise Quickel, principal of Windsor Elementary. “For our school’s Attendance Matters kickoff in 2019, she wrote a song about the importance of coming to school to the tune of ‘Old Town Road.' The song and video were a big hit with our school family. Ms. Bannister loved her students and never missed an opportunity to advocate for students and public education.”

Employees at Windsor Elementary were told about her death Monday, and parents of her students this year and last year were informed on Tuesday, the release said.

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"My heart is so heavy right now. We lost an Amazing young Teacher this week in Richland Two," Richland Two board member Dr. Teresa Holmes wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. "God has gained another Angel. Please be safe and careful in these trying times of Covid19. RIH….We love you."

As of Thursday morning, South Carolina has reported more than 126,213 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 2,942 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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