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Family: Clay County bus driver dies from COVID-19

Gail Brusseau was a Clay County bus driver for 26 years. She died Friday after battling coronavirus.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — Parents and family are remembering a Clay County school bus driver who died from COVID-19.

Gail Brusseau drove for Clay County Schools for 26 years. Friends and family says she died last Friday from the virus.

According to a coworker, Brusseau planned on retiring at the end of this year.

One parent says she didn't just take children to and from school; she also cared for them like they were her own.

Brusseau's bus has turned into a memorial with flowers and balloons at the Clay County bus barn in Middleburg.

Brusseau is one of the regions' latest victims of the coronavirus.

Katie Emanuel's son in fifth grade was one of many students who rode her bus.

“I still can’t wrap my brain around she’s not here, like I want to pick up the phone and call her but I can’t,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel says her son had to quarantine after learning Brusseau had COVID-19.

Emanuel says she tried to stay in touch with Brusseau during her diagnosis.

“I checked on her daily, [asking] 'how are you? Are you okay?' A couple days in she didn’t answer me, so I texted her again and all I got back was ‘checking into the hospital,’" Emanuel said.

Brusseau's youngest son William told First Coast News: "thank you everyone for your condolences. I think the best thing to do is not be complacent about the coronavirus," he wrote.

Clay County Schools sent First Coast News a statement, saying:

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our employee, Gail Brusseau. We want to extend our sincere condolences to her family and friends. Gail was dedicated to Clay County District Schools working as a bus driver for more than 20 years. We are thankful for her service and will honor her legacy." 

Friends like Emanuel say Brusseau poured her heart and soul into her work.

“It made me feel good she actually cared, she didn’t just drop them off and leave, she cared about them and it wasn’t just him (my son), it was his siblings too,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel --who lost another relative to coronavirus-- says Brusseau's death hits close to home.

Brusseau's son says "don't let my mom who was stolen from us [to] have died in vain. Yes, I'm upset but moreso angry, angry that I no longer have my mom to talk to, to call, to see, to hold."

A GoFundMe page has been created to help with the Brusseau's funeral expenses.

Brusseau's funeral will be held at Hardage-Giddens Holly Hill funeral home in Middleburg on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

COVID-19 protection measures for Clay County include requring students and drivers to wear face masks. All buses have sanitizer, students are in assigned seats, drivers clean the bus after each route and at the end of each day, electrostatic sprayers disinfect every bus.

Currently there are four staff members with COVID-19 within the district, but that is not broken down by profession.