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Knox County teacher says exposure to COVID-19 at school led to the death of his mother

Richard Brown, a teacher in Knox County, said he contracted COVID-19 at school. Later, his mom contacted the coronavirus too and died days later.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knox County teacher is grieving the loss of his mother Thursday. He said that he caught the coronavirus at school before he unknowingly gave it to his mom and she died.

He said that his love of being in the classroom led to his mother's death, and he is now trying to wrap his head around her being gone.

"Yesterday, I broke down and cried while I was waiting to go to classes. I just broke down crying cause I was thinking about her. I miss her," said Richard Brown.

He said that she was his rock, and was the person who had been there for him since day one. Now, he said that he is stuck without her.

"She was awesome. My mom was my rock, my backbone. No matter what I've done, she was always there for the family," he said.

Richard Brown is a teacher at West Valley Middle School, and he said he was exposed to COVID-19 at school before bringing that deadly virus into his household.

"I finally got my results, and I notified the school that I had that I had COVID about a week later, my mother who was 80 at the time caught COVID," Brown said.

Within days, his mom fell incredibly ill and medical attention was the only option. He said that he took her to the emergency room because her oxygen levels started falling low.

Nema, his mother, later died of COVID-19 complications. Now, Brown said that he is thinking about the special things that made his mom his best friend.

"Her kindness. Her encouraging words to others. She could lift people up with her smile," he said.

Brown says he knows it's not his fault his mother contracted COVID-19, and also said he wants to send a message to people who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated about the dangers of this virus.

"I don't want them to go through what I went through, with the trickle-down effect of passing COVID on to another family member and them passing away. So, it's so important to just wear a mask, be respectful," he said.

Brown is back in the classroom after a federal judge has ruled Knox County Schools must enforce a mask mandate for students and staff. The Knox County Board of Education has filed paperwork to add several more medical exemptions to that rule.


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