AUSTIN (KXAN) — A food service worker at an Austin ISD elementary school has died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Casis Elementary Principal Samuel Tinnon wrote in a letter to parents that Patricia “Pati” Hernandez had died, calling her a “much-loved member of our school community.” He said what caused her death has not been confirmed, but that she had tested positive for COVID-19.
Jen Samp of Austin Public Health said on a conference call hosted by AISD that APH is counting Hernandez’s death as one of the six COVID-19 deaths in the area. Hernandez died April 2 after being hospitalized for “less than a week,” said Reyne Telles, AISD executive director of communications.
Telles and Samp both said they were unsure when Hernandez tested positive for COVID-19.
During the call Monday, Telles said the Casis Elementary cafeteria hasn’t been used since March 12, has been disinfected several times since then, and is not being used to prepare the 17,000 meals the district is handing out to students during campus closures.
There’s no reason to worry about the meals being contaminated, Telles said. There’s also no evidence the novel coronavirus, that causes COVID-19, can be transmitted through food. Hernandez was not part of the staff that prepared or served the meals, Telles said.
“We would hate to have this be a reason a child doesn’t get a meal,” Telles said.
Hernandez had worked at the school for 10 years and within the district since 2002.
“She was always so proud of the quality of her food,” said Anneliese Tanner, executive director of food service for AISD. “She always wanted me to taste it. She was a thoughtful, sweet woman.”
“During this time, she was considered a loyal, faithful, and hardworking individual – who found great joy in serving the students of our school and district,” Tinnon said.
Tinnon said AISD’s school-based mental health partner, Vida Clinic, is helping teletherapy services to students, families and staff. People can schedule an appointment online, over the phone or by email.
“Because our school is a family, we share happy and sad times together,” Tinnon wrote. “While we help our child(ren) understand this loss, know that none of us are alone. It is important we continue to support one another and stay connected. As we mourn the passing of Pati, let us keep her, as well as her family and all those affected by COVID-19 in our thoughts.”
An official cause of death is still “several days away,” Telles said, and even then, the district would need family permission to share that information.