WALLINGFORD — A retired elementary school teacher has died from complications of COVID-19, the town’s first confirmed death from the disease since the outbreak began.
Audrey Carretta, 86, died Monday from the complications, according to her daughter Stacy Stanton.
“It’s a tragedy, that’s for sure,” said town Health Director Stephen Civitelli. “My heart goes out to the family.”
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in town rose Tuesday by one from Monday, for a total of 10. Carretta’s case was the first reported fatality.
There were 3,128 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state as of Tuesday’s update from the state Department of Public Health, with 608 hospitalizations and 69 deaths.
Carretta was born in Meriden and was a teacher at E.C. Stevens Elementary School for most of her career. She retired about 25 years ago after spending her entire career in Wallingford.
Stanton said Tuesday that Carretta loved being with children, whether they were her second and third grade students or her own brood of four children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
She described her mother as high-spirited, loving, caring and nurturing, with interests in gardening, cooking, reading and traveling.
She and her husband, Eugene L. "Duke" Carretta, who died six months ago at age 90, wintered in Florida and had traveled all over the world, Stanton said.
“They were the love of each other’s lives,” she said, adding that she and her three siblings had admiration for their long union.
ER visit reveals virus
Stanton said her mother’s diagnosis of COVID-19 was a “shock to all of us.”
Carretta had recently traveled to Florida with Stanton and her two sisters, returning March 14.
“She was in an airport in Florida for a long time because the flight was delayed,” Stanton said, adding that once her mother returned, she only left her house once and her only visitors were her children, who practiced social distancing.
Carretta was living alone and fell at home last week. She was taken to the emergency room at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain on March 25, where she was tested for coronavirus.
Stanton said that in retrospect, she believes her mother’s physical weakness was due to the virus and was the only symptom of the illness before she arrived at the hospital.
She said she believed her mother was tested for coronavirus because she was an elderly person coming into the ER with a fever.
“In a matter of days, it became obvious that she was pretty sick,” Stanton said, “and when she took a turn for the worse pretty quickly, they really did assume it was the coronavirus, and then the test did come back positive. And then she died.”
Unlike many other coronavirus patients, hospital staff allowed Carretta’s family into her room, one at a time while wearing full personal protective gear. Stanton said her mother was able to talk to each of her grandchildren through a video call.
“No words were really left unsaid,” Stanton said. “But it’s still hard, because we know that she was healthy … She said to me, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die of the virus.’”
Stanton and her siblings are currently quarantined, but so far they aren’t sick, she said.
The funeral service is pending. Carretta was Catholic, a parishioner of Church of the Resurrection. Stanton said that when her family can celebrate her mother’s life with a Christian funeral, they will.
Carretta had two great-grandchildren on the way. Stanton said that her son’s family is expecting a baby in a few weeks.
“It’s a little girl and her name is Audrey,” she said.