A Georgia teacher died from COVID-19 after her district's superintendent refused to issue a mask mandate but instead allowed teachers to wear jeans to work.
Penny Gary, a longtime Statesboro High School teacher, died of complications from the virus over the weekend, although it's not clear whether she had been vaccinated or taught inside a classroom since school started earlier this month, reported The Daily Beast.
"It's a great loss to this community because she cared not only for us students but for teachers as well, she had a lot of compassion towards everybody," former student William Hill told WJCL-TV. "She would just make sure you were on the right track, to get you prepared for life after high school. Get you prepared for your career and everything. The past students and students currently here, we're going to miss her greatly. There's going to be a big void left in the Statesboro High School community."
The 58-year-old Gary died after parents and Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey had asked school administrators to follow CDC guidelines and require masks inside school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
Bulloch County, where Gary taught, was among the counties with high transmission rates, with only 21 percent of the eligible population vaccinated, but the district has maintained in-person learning and superintendent Charles Wilson refused to require masking and instead allowed teachers the "liberty" of wearing denim pants to work.
"I talked with principals today and we all agreed that, though it is a small gesture, you would enjoy the liberty of wearing jeans for the next month," Wilson wrote in email sent to teachers. "So, by all means, please enjoy your jeans throughout the month of September (and the rest of August)."