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A teacher died of coronavirus in the middle of an online class with students

Published Sep 8th, 2020 1:26PM EDT
Coronavirus Deaths
Image: Luca Lorenzelli/Adobe

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  • A teacher in Argentina died of coronavirus complications while teaching an online class, and her students witnessed the event helplessly.
  • The 46-year-old woman had been dealing with COVID-19 symptoms for weeks but decided to continue teaching her university students.
  • The event is a stern reminder that the coronavirus continues to be a significant risk for people of all ages, including students and teachers who might return to school for in-person classes.

The reopening of schools isn’t working out quite as well as we hoped, as the novel coronavirus is still ravaging many communities across the country and around the world. We’ve seen plenty of stories that show some communities have not prepared well enough at all for the safe reopening of schools or have ignored the few safety measures that can reduce the spread of COVID-19. It’s not just kids who are getting exposed to the virus, but also teachers and other staff, as well as all the families of school children and the faculty.

The following story shows that nobody is safe, even in those communities where in-person meetings might be rare, and classes are taught online. A teacher died of coronavirus complications after battling the illness for weeks. She was only 46-year-old, and she died while hosting a remote video conference with her students in attendance.

Paola De Simone’s online lecture ended suddenly last week when the 40 students attending the course noticed their teacher was struggling to breathe. They asked her for her address to call for an ambulance, but she did not have time to respond. The teacher seemed to contact her husband, and the students stayed on the call until he arrived. De Simone posted on her now-deleted Twitter account that she had been battling coronavirus symptoms for weeks.

Current and former students told The Washington Post they were not surprised when they heard that the teacher kept teaching after falling ill.

“This was not a surprise, I totally portray Paola deciding, ‘I can totally do this, my students need me,’” said Argentine journalist Silvina Sterin Pensel, who went to school with De Simone. The teacher’s death was a “sad reminder that the virus is real.”

“Her classes were at 7 a.m., it was very difficult sometimes, we were sleepy, but it was crazy because everybody listened to her,” said Michelle Denise Bolo, a student at Argentina’s Universidad de Buenos Aires. “By the end of the class, nobody wanted to leave, everybody wanted to keep talking about what she was explaining.”

Argentina is still grappling with a substantial COVID-19 outbreak, having reported nearly 490,000 cases and over 10,100 deaths so far. Almost 120,500 cases are still active in the country as of the time of this writing, and around 10,000 new cases are being reported each day.

“The virus is still making rounds in Buenos Aires,” Sterin Pensel said. “In Argentina, the confinement has been very strict, so people are showing signs of fatigue in complying. But these kinds of reminders, these awful reminders, they shake your core.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.