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Friends, family, former students, and fellow New York City educators mourned the death of Dezann Romain, a 36-year-old school principal who died due to complications from COVID-19, on Tuesday.
Romain was a principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a transfer school in Brownsville for students over 16 or without sufficient credits who are working toward a high school diploma.
The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), a union for public school administrators in New York City that Romain was a member of, announced her passing in a statement.
“Our prayers are with her family and school community as we mourn alongside them," the statement said. "Please keep Principal Romain in your thoughts and continue to do everything possible to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe during this health crisis.”
Curtis Turney-Rentas, one of Romain's former students, told BuzzFeed News she was more than just their art teacher.
"She taught us how to become men and women. She taught us how to be leaders in our own light," he said.
Romain was an understanding but tough teacher, Turney-Rentas recalled, and "always hip to what we thought was 'in' at the time."
After Turney-Rentas graduated from high school, she remained a friend, supporting him and his peers in their personal and professional lives.
When he organized a community event handing out book bags of school supplies and food to families in Far Rockaway, Romain was there with his other former teachers.
"She just wasn’t a teacher or principal," he said. "She was a daughter, a sister, a friend and most of all a hero to many of us."
On Facebook, there was an outpour of grief among others who knew Romain.
Some pleaded for others to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously.
Many people also expressed their concern that Romain had died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, at age 36.
Though the disease poses the highest risk to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, a significant percentage of patients hospitalized due to the coronavirus have been under 65 years old.
NYC Education Department chancellor Richard A. Carranza tweeted his condolences Monday night.
"We’re all experiencing a deep sense of confusion, uncertainty, and sadness, and it’s more important than ever to provide support to one another," he said. "We’ll be there for the students and staff through whatever means necessary during this impossibly difficult time."
With more than 25,000 confirmed cases by Tuesday, New York state currently has the most people infect with the virus in the country.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive order directing all New Yorkers to stay home and all nonessential businesses to close went into effect on Sunday.
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