A Clark County School District food service employee has died after contracting COVID-19, the district said Thursday.
The male employee worked at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, which has served as a food distribution site since Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all public, private and charter schools in the state on March 15. The individual was most recently on the campus on March 23, according to district representatives.
“We are sorry that we lost a team member to this invisible virus,” a statement from the district said. “Our thoughts are with our team member’s family, loved ones and colleagues.”
The Desert Pines food distribution location will be closed until further notice as the site is deep cleaned, according to the district.
The school district had not previously reported this case of coronavirus. District representatives said they were made aware of it on Thursday. CCSD had previously reported three cases of COVID-19: one transportation staff member, one at Heard Elementary School in Las Vegas and a third at Mojave High School in North Las Vegas.
The statement said that all employees working at food distribution sites utilize gloves when distributing food. Food items are prepackaged at the Food Service Central Kitchen or individually wrapped from the manufacturer and not handled outside of their packaging by workers at the distribution sites, the district said.
According to the school district, the Southern Nevada Health District was consulted and has stated that there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread through food.
However the World Health Organization advises that studies suggest that the new coronavirus can live on surfaces or objects “for a few hours or up to several days.”
Other workers at the site are not working at any other location and are being asked to monitor their health.
Lisa Guzman, executive director of the Education Support Employees Association, said it’s difficult for food service employees to keep a six-foot distance from each other at food distribution sites as they pack the bags that are given to families.
Guzman added that the union had repeatedly asked the school district to provide protective equipment to essential employees, adding that while the district provided gloves and clothing covers, it did not give the workers face masks.
“On March 23, he probably did not have a face mask,” Guzman said.
The Centers for Disease Control on Thursday announced new guidelines encouraging the use of cloth masks for all individuals in public to slow the spread of disease.
The Review-Journal asked CCSD if face masks would be provided to essential employees in accordance to CDC guidelines moving forward. The district did not immediately respond to the inquiry.
Guzman said the worker’s death has further demoralized his colleagues who were called back to work during the school closure.
“Every person who had to return to work is terrified because they don’t know if their friend who they’ve worked with for years has been exposed, and if just saying hello will risk exposure,” she said.
The individual who died had been a union member since 2008, Guzman said.
She said that while she believes this individual had health insurance, some CCSD food service workers are considered only part-time employees, and do not qualify for health insurance through the district.