A Wake County elementary school teacher who contracted COVID-19 has died.
In a letter sent Thursday to families at Scotts Ridge Elementary School in Apex, parents were told that Merridith Mongone had died that afternoon from complications due to COVID. Mongone, 43, was a fourth-grade teacher at the school.
“She will be greatly missed by the staff, students, and Scotts Ridge community and our hearts go out to her friends and family,” said the letter from the school.
Mongone was not vaccinated, according to Christi Vereckey, a friend and fellow fourth-grade teacher at the school. Unvaccinated people are more than 15 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Vereckey said Mongone contracted COVID in early August while on a family trip, back before the school year started at Scotts Ridge.
Mongone was too ill to come back to school, so Vereckey set up her friend’s classroom. The school provided people to cover her class while hoping the beloved teacher would return.
“She was full of life, full of energy,” Vereckey said in an interview Friday. “She never sat down. She loved teaching, loved seeing kids learn and grow.”
‘Heaven gained another angel’
Mongone wasn’t feeling well so she was admitted to WakeMed in Cary. But her condition worsened, so she was moved to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill.
Mongone was put on ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a machine that replaces the function of the heart and lungs by sucking blood out of the body, pushing it through an artificial lung that feeds it oxygen, then returning it to the heart
“Yesterday heaven gained another angel,” said the GoFundMe page created to help the family pay the medical bills. “Merridith passed away with Frankie (her husband) at her side. Please pray for the family for the days to come.”
Mongone also leaves behind four daughters.
Helping children deal with teacher’s death
Now those at the school, including the students, are processing her death. Mongone had worked at Scotts Ridge since August 2018.
“There’s a lot of kids struggling, today, not only her four girls,” Vereckey said. “She really had an impact on a lot of people’s lives.”
Scotts Ridge warned parents that they can expect their children to feel anxious, sad, fearful, angry or vulnerable after Mongone’s death. The school suggested that parents contact their child’s school counselor for support if needed.
“Parents, we are asking you to monitor and please be aware of social media, especially as it relates to your child,” the school said in its letter. ”They may be scared of losing someone else close to them.
“Through encouraging discussion, being supportive of feelings, providing factual information and suggesting positive outlets, you can help your child be aware of and process his or her emotions.”
Should teachers be required to get COVID shot?
Vereckey said that before her death, Mongone texted Vereckey saying she wished she had gotten the COVID vaccine. Vereckey said that after Mongone got sick she made sure to get her 17-year-old daughter vaccinated.
Mongone’s other two teenage daughters will now get their shot too, Vereckey said.
Mongone’s death comes as the Wake County school system weighs whether to require employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.
On Tuesday, the Wake County school system shared a survey of district employees that shows close to 90% say they have received the COVID vaccine or plan to do so.
A new federal requirement from the Biden Administration calls for employers with at least 100 employees to get their workers fully vaccinated or give them weekly COVID tests.