After decades as a nurse, 70-year-old Iris Meda had big plans when she retired in January this year, including traveling—and riding in a convertible with the top down for the first time. But after the pandemic hit, she decided to come out of retirement in August and teach future nurses at Collins College in suburban Dallas. "She felt like if she could gain momentum by teaching some of those basics, we could contain any virus," daughter Selene Meda-Schlamel tells the Washington Post. "She wanted to do something that would make a difference." Meda initially thought she would be working online but agreed to teach classes in person. Despite taking precautions, she was infected with the virus, apparently by a student who had been showing symptoms. She was hospitalized on Oct. 17 and died from COVID-19 complications on Nov. 14.
Meda's daughter says her mom felt her work was a "service to the country" during the pandemic. "I hope that students realize the compromise that their teachers are putting themselves in and recognize that they are themselves heroes," she says. The Dallas Morning News reports faculty and staff at the college have been angered by its handling of the pandemic and Meda's death. Days before she started work, President H. Neil Matkin said in an email that the pandemic's effects had been "blown utterly out of proportion across our nation and reported with unfortunate sensationalism." He announced Meda's death, without giving her name, in the 22nd paragraph of an email titled "College Update & Happy Thanksgiving!" A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help Meda's family with hospital bills and to establish a scholarship fund. (Read more coronavirus stories.)