Michigan school employee dies of COVID-19

She was a mother, wife, sister, public school educator and beloved friend to many.

She is also the first educator in Michigan to die of COVID-19.

Local health officials confirmed on Thursday that an employee in a Montcalm County school district died of the virus.

Marcus Cheatham, health officer with the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, confirmed the death but declined to identify the victim, citing privacy requirements.

“We are doing contact tracing and a history of who people had contact. We can’t talk about the individual. We did have a Montcalm County resident who recently died of COVID-19,” Cheatham said.

“It’s important for people to know we are having outbreaks and it kills people. I hope the media will challenge the public to take this outbreak seriously,” Cheatham said.

Media reports from Mlive.com and Woodtv.com have identified the woman as Michelle Lynn McCrackin.

Michelle McCrackin

On Monday, state health officials reported that Carson City Elementary in Carson City in Montcalm County was among 21 Michigan K-12 schools with a new COVID-19 outbreak. The school had six cases involving students and staff.

Montcalm County is about 45 miles northwest of Grand Rapids

Lisa Kaspriak, administrator for the Mid-Michigan Medical Examiner Group, could not confirm the death but said a call came into her office about a 50-something female who died of natural causes.

Her office did not take jurisdiction over the case or perform an autopsy because the woman had been under the care of a physician and died of natural causes, Kaspriak said.

An obituary for McCrackin said she died Sept. 25 at Sparrow Carson Hospital.

McCrackin worked for the Carson City-Crystal Area Schools as a Parapro/Title 1 teacher and was the union president, according to her obituary.

“Michelle was previously the local president, as well as an outstanding educator and a mentor to fellow staff members,” said Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association.

“Presuming (COVID-19) was the cause, her illness and sudden death should serve as a warning to those who are urging in-person learning in communities where it is not safe yet to do so,” he said. “The rising case rates in rural communities across the state reminds us that this virus is not confined to large urban and suburban districts.

“For everyone’s safety, we must redouble efforts to ensure that proper safety precautions, including social distancing, masks, partitions and more,” Pratt said. “Districts currently conducting in-person learning need to re-examine the safety measures put in place and ensure they’re being enforced, along with communicating openly with parents and employees about outbreaks.”

Officials with the Michigan Department of Education said they were not aware of any other Michigan school employee to have died as a result of COVID-19.

“We are saddened to learn that a dedicated educator has died as a result of COVID-19 and encourage everyone to wear a mask and take the proper health and safety precautions to help reduce the chance of others contracting the virus,” MDE spokesman Bill DiSessa said.

One of McCrackin’s daughters, Kaitlynn, said in a post on Facebook this week, that her family “decided to honor our mom’s (Michelle) legacy by establishing a scholarship fund for future Carson City-Crystal High School graduates.”

“Our mom had such a passion for helping others succeeded in all aspects of life. By giving back, we can help the future students of Carson City-Crystal achieve their goals of attending college in memory of our mom,” the post says.

Kaitlynn McCrackin declined an interview with The Detroit News on Thursday, saying she was still mourning the sudden loss of her “wonderful mother.”

As of Thursday, the state has recorded 125,578 cases of COVID-19 and 6,781 deaths.

jchambers@detroitnews.com