After begging families not to break rules, kindergarten worker dies of COVID-19
Death came hours after decision to keep kindergartens open

After begging families not to break rules, kindergarten worker dies of COVID-19

1st reported fatality in education system, Shalva Zalfreund said some parents weren’t obeying isolation regulations and that she was told she had been infected at work

Shalva Zalfreund in an undated photo (Courtesy)
Shalva Zalfreund in an undated photo (Courtesy)

A kindergarten worker from the central city of Petah Tikva died of COVID-19 on Friday, two weeks after she sent a message to parents asking them to respect the regulations to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and not send sick children to the daycare.

“I am in an at-risk group [for infection]. The authorities know with certainty about families who violated isolation or did not follow the instructions to not send children [to kindergarten when they] have a family member in isolation in their home,” wrote Shalva Zalfreund, 64.

“It is true that isolation for a small child is an unpleasant experience, but it passes in two weeks and in that one moment we can be partners to really save lives and educate our children to respect others,” Zalfreund told the parents.

“For me, it no longer matters who I contracted it from and who violated isolation. I just beg and plead for the grandparents, neighbors and older relatives who surround us and do not deserve to die, even if they have underlying illnesses,” she wrote.

Zalfreund said she had been told by “qualified sources” that she had been infected at the municipal kindergarten, but it was unclear how this could be confirmed.

A kindergarten in Kfar Yona on May 10, 2020 (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Petah Tikva Mayor Rami Greenfeld eulogized Zalfreund as “an amazing teacher who educated many children in the city.”

The teachers’ union said she “was a respected and beloved teacher who educated Israeli children from an early age. She is survived by two sons and four daughters.”

Anat Dadon, who is in charge of the kindergarten unit within the union, said the government must protect daycare workers amid the pandemic.

“I call on the Israeli government, the prime minister and the education minister to worry about Israeli kindergarten workers and protect them as they endanger themselves every day when they arrive at the daycares,” she told Channel 12 news.

The announcement of the kindergarten worker’s death came hours after Hebrew media reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz had decided to keep educational institutions open for now, at least until the middle of next week. Shutting down the education system would close kindergartens, camps and summer schools.

Israel once again saw over 1,900 cases in a 24-hour period up to Friday evening, the latest Health Ministry figures showed, with five more deaths.

The ministry said 1,015 new cases had been diagnosed since midnight, with 1,929 since Thursday evening.

The latest numbers brought the national case total to 47,459 since the start of the pandemic, of which 26,323 were active cases. The death toll stood at 392, with five deaths since the morning. Of the patients, 208 were in serious condition, with 56 of them on ventilators, while 119 were in moderate condition and the rest suffered only mild or no symptoms.

The ministry said over 30,000 tests had been conducted Thursday and some 16,000 had been conducted Friday so far. Testing numbers tend to go down somewhat during the weekend.

The number continued the rising trend in infections, which have gone up steadily since early June and in recent days began to pass 1,800-1,900 cases a day, far surpassing the initial wave of the outbreak in March-April.

According to data published by Channel 12 Friday, age continued to be a major factor in mortality, with the average age of the deceased being 80.

The total national death toll in June was actually lower in 2020 than in previous years, standing at 2,982, the network said, while the average toll in 2015-2019 was some 3,300.

There has been speculation that the lower-than-average death toll during the pandemic could be the result of many Israelis staying at home and avoiding various accidents and mishaps, as well as many people putting off medical procedures that could be fatal. According to such assessments, this could lead to an above-average death toll in the future.

Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at Leumit Health Care Services branch in Or Yehuda, on July 14, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Meanwhile, new public restrictions authorized by the government to combat the spread of coronavirus entered into effect Friday at 5 p.m., limiting public gatherings until further notice and shuttering various leisure and fitness activities for the duration of the weekend.

Gatherings of over 10 people indoors, and 20 outdoors, will also be forbidden until further notice, but work groups and nuclear families will be exempt.

A last-minute reversal by the government led to a decision to keep restaurants open until Tuesday, when they will be shuttered until further notice for all but takeaways and deliveries. The government changed course when it faced widespread threats by restaurant owners to defy the closure order, which had been originally intended to take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Government offices will be limited to 50% capacity and will be closed to the public, except for online services, until further notice. Cafeterias at workplaces will be closed, except for takeout.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, chairs an emergency meeting of senior ministers to decide on measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, July 16, 2020. (Chaim Tzach/GPO)

Meanwhile, only on weekends until further notice, shops will close but stores offering essential services, such as pharmacies and supermarkets, will be allowed to remain open.

Malls, markets, barbers, hairdressers, beauty parlors, libraries, zoos, museums, exhibition spaces, pools and tourist sites will also be closed on weekends.

The weekend restrictions take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, and will be lifted at 5 a.m. on Sunday.

This weekend, there are no new restrictions on movement and beaches will remain open, subject to social distancing. But a tighter weekend lockdown is likely to take effect from Friday, July 24, including restrictions on movement. As of July 24,  beaches are also set be closed on weekends.

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