COLUMBIA, S.C. — Earlier this week, a third-grade teacher in Richland School District Two died from complications from the coronavirus.
Now, as her family honors her memory, they also hope people will remember to take this virus seriously.
"Intelligent, kind-hearted, thoughtful, loving, smiling, high-spirited, the life of the party, incredible ... anything positive, that's what she was," Shayla Jones said.
Shayla Jones said those words best describe her cousin, Demetria Bannister, who died of complications from the coronavirus.
"It's truly devastating," Jones said. "We didn't have time to process anything because she got sick and went to the hospital Friday and then three days later we get the phone call."
Bannister was only 28-years-old and a teacher at Windsor Elementary School.
"Way before the profession, she was good at teaching," Jones said. "She found her true passion for the students and being a teacher."
Jones said their family still can't wrap their minds around it all.
"I can't imagine how her students feel or anyone who knew her rather. She truly could put a smile on anyone's face. She pushed them to be better, and she would see things in all of us that we didn't see in ourselves," Jones said.
As Jones and their family reflect on all their memories together, she also hopes this serves as a reminder to people to take COVID-19 seriously.
"I don't believe students or teachers should be in school because of my cousin's situation, being that she was very careful and she still contracted the virus, so it's dangerous for everyone," Jones said.
Jones said no matter what, she will always carry her cousins memory with her.
"She left a big imprint on everyone, it's amazing," Jones said.
Governor Henry McMaster was asked about the death of Bannister during press briefing on Thursday. McMaster has been for the reopening of schools. He said zero teacher deaths are acceptable.
"Death, a teacher or otherwise, is always a tragedy. I didn't know the lady, but from what I read, she sounded like a beautiful person," McMaster said. "It's sad, and we are sorry for the family. We have had a lot of people die from the virus. The virus is still here people are going to get it, the evidence is very clear, and some of them going to be teachers. Some of them are going to be students. We have to be careful, but we have to move forward. We cannot live in fear, and we cannot shut down every institution. It won't work, and it certainly won't work here."