Third Cobb County teacher in ICU with COVID-19

A first-grade teacher in the Cobb County School District is in the hospital with COVID-19, making her the latest known case of educators who have contracted the disease.

Dana Johnson, who teaches at Kemp Elementary School in Powder Springs, was admitted to the hospital Dec. 6 after struggling to breathe, according to a GoFundMe account created this week by friend Josee Levitt. Doctors diagnosed her with double pneumonia and after two weeks in the hospital, she was moved to WellStar Paulding Hospital’s intensive care unit, the page said.

The GoFundMe campaign hopes to raise $20,000 to help Johnson and her family with medical bills. As of Thursday, $13,550 had been contributed.

“No one wants to be in the hospital during the Christmas season, so I felt it was necessary to help her and her family,” Levitt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She (Johnson) is a huge believer in the Lord and has faith that she is going to pull through.”

The support from the community has been “absolutely incredible,” Levitt said. Former students, fellow teachers, Kemp PTA members and friends have pitched in to help Johnson and her family.

“I cried at all the support and love that was pouring in,” Levitt said. “I didn’t expect it would go that high that fast, but the west Cobb and Kemp community are to thank.”

Johnson is the third known Cobb County educator hospitalized with COVID-19. Jacob Furse, a Garrett Middle School chorus and drama teacher, has been hospitalized for a week at WellStar Kennestone Hospital’s unit reserved for COVID patients. Patrick Key, a Hendricks Elementary School art teacher, was admitted last month to Kennestone’s intensive care unit after he began struggling to breathe.

As of Wednesday, Cobb County had 33,621 COVID-19 cases, 537 deaths and 2,310 hospitalizations, according to the state Department of Public Health. The county’s two-week case number per 100,000 people is 608, six times higher than what’s considered high community spread, DPH reports.

Due to this spike in community spread of COVID-19, Cobb County schools last week shifted to remote learning for all students during the last two days of the first semester.

With the district set to return Jan. 6 for the second semester with both in-person and virtual learning available for students, some are pushing for the district to allow educators to choose between teaching remotely and in the classroom.

Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, told Cobb County Board of Education members at their Dec. 17 work session that some teachers with pre-existing conditions who don’t want to put their health at risk have opted to use the Family Medical Leave Act for the fall semester.

Once that leave runs out, they’ll be forced to teach both remote and in-person students simultaneously in the classroom. Some may choose to leave the profession if they have to return to the classroom in that environment, she said.

“That would be devastating,” she said. “We have some of the best teachers in this country and we don’t need to lose them.”

Jackson encouraged the district to implement a systemwide policy already in place at some schools that gives educators the option of teaching remotely or in the classroom.

“This is something you guys can fix,” she said. “Teachers should not be forced to choose between their health and safety and their jobs.”

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