Mississippi teacher death sparks COVID-19 fears for district

A Mississippi teacher who was under self-quarantine with coronavirus symptoms died this week — stoking fears that the district could see an outbreak of the contagion as students return to classrooms.

Nacoma James, 42, who taught at Lafayette Middle School and was an assistant football coach for the district’s high school, died on Thursday, district superintendent Adam Pugh told Mississippi Today.

In-person classes were back in session across the district this week for the first time since March. James did not return to the classroom but had contact with students during football workouts “all summer,” Pugh said.

“No one has told me officially that he had COVID, but I do know he was self-quarantining this week,” Pugh told the outlet.

“Last Thursday would’ve been the last contact he had with any students, at summer workouts for the [high school] football team. I’m not exactly sure what symptoms he had, but he wasn’t around students or teachers this week.”

Contact tracing is now underway to determine which students may have been exposed, the superintendent said.

“In my 30 years in education and the last 12 as a superintendent, I’ve lost more sleep over keeping kids safe than anything,” Pugh said.

“Does all this have me worried? Absolutely. I want to keep all of our students as safe as I possibly can. This all worries me a great deal.”

Mississippi has seen a total of 65,436 coronavirus cases and 1,848 deaths, according to health department data last updated Thursday evening.

Lafayette County has seen 956 cases and 15 deaths.