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West Des Moines Educator Who Died Of COVID-19 Was Exposed At School, Family Says

In a photo shared by her family, Jennifer Crawford wears a mask and face shield.
Courtesy of the Crawford family
In a photo shared by her family, Jennifer Crawford wears a mask and face shield.

The family of West Des Moines Community Schools staff member who recently died of COVID-19 said she was exposed to the coronavirus while working at school.

Jennifer Crawford, a special education assistant at Indian Hills Junior High in West Des Moines, died of the coronavirus on October 3. She was 53 years old.

In a statement through a Des Moines law firm, Crawford’s family said she was told by the school principal on Sept. 4 that she should be tested for the coronavirus after she was exposed to another person in the school who was infected.

Crawford tested positive for the virus a few days later while out-of-state helping to care for a family member.

“Covid-19 is a horrible, deadly disease not to be ignored or treated lightly,” the family said in the statement. “Jennifer took all precautions at school recommended by the Governor and still contracted and died from this disease.”

In a statement Wednesday, the school district confirmed that Crawford received a call from the Indian Hills principal about a potential exposure to the coronavirus. However, she was not considered a "close contact" which is defined by state and federal guidelines as being within six feet of a person who tests positive for the coronavirus for 15 minutes or more.

The district said asymptomatic community spread makes it "virtually impossible" to know how or when Crawford was infected. "To say she will be missed does not adequately convey how her WDMCS colleagues, students and families feel from this loss."

A spokesperson with the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said the group is not aware of any other educators who have died after an alleged exposure at school. The Iowa Department of Public Health does not report outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools.

This story was updated at 4:15p.m. on 10-14-20.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa