30 Students Quarantined After Infected Teacher Resumed Class Despite COVID-19 Symptoms

As coronavirus cases in Belgium surpass 121,000, more than two dozen students have been quarantined after a teacher tested for positive for the novel coronavirus in the West Flanders province.

Thirty students from the Vives University of Applied Sciences in Kortrijk were quarantined after a female instructor resumed in-person teaching despite having a cold and feeling tired, Belgium's Het Nieuwsblad newspaper reported.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include various symptoms associated with the common cold as well as fatigue, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The teacher did not have a fever when she informed students via email last Thursday that she was feeling unwell. "We will see tomorrow [Friday] whether the class continues," she told her students in the email, Het Nieuwsblad reported.

On Friday, students were updated by email that the class would resume as scheduled that afternoon. Despite feeling unwell, the teacher reportedly decided to resume the class "to allow the students social contact," according to Het Nieuwsblad.

The students were told it would be the final lesson given in the classroom, while the remaining lessons would be taught online.

During the lesson, the teacher reportedly asked students to sit as far back as possible in the classroom, "just to be sure."

That Friday evening, the teacher was reported to have become more ill and tested positive for the virus.

Two of the teacher's third-year orthopedagogy students were reported to have tested positive but it is unknown how they were infected, The Brussel Times reported.

One of the infected students was reported to have tested positive last week, while all other students are now being tested. The results are expected to be available Friday or Saturday, Het Nieuwsblad reported.

The university described the incident as "a stupid and unwise decision," noting "the teacher has not kept to the agreements made," which requires anyone who feels unwell stays at home, Het Nieuwsblad reported.

"The teacher involved realizes that she has acted wrong," the university noted, confirming it will not be taking any disciplinary actions against the instructor.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel university Belgium June 2020
University students of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, some wearing protective facemasks, take their exams at the Art and History Museum in Brussels on June 2 to maintain social distancing guidelines amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty students at a university in Kortrijk, Belgium have been quarantined after a teacher tested positive for the virus. Benoit Doppagne/Belga/AFP via Getty Images

Average daily new cases in Belgium have been increasing from mid-July before briefly flattening out throughout August and rising sharply from early September, according to data compiled by Worldometer.

Restrictions were eased this month with masks only required in crowded places from October 1, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes announced last month.

Quarantine periods for those infected or potentially infected with the virus were also reduced from 14 to seven days, Wilmes confirmed.

The Belgian government also eased its ban on travel to areas with a high risk of COVID-19 infection and said it would instead "strongly discourage" travel to high risk areas.

"The corona pandemic is not over yet. This is the situation. The virus is not going away, but life must restart eventually," Wilmes said at the time.

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 34.3 million people across the globe since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 7.2 million in the U.S. More than a million have died following infection, while more than 23.8 million have reportedly recovered as of Friday, according to JHU.

The graphics below, provided by Statista, illustrate the spread of COVID-19 cases in countries across the globe.

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The graphic below, also provided by Statista, illustrates U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.

covid map sep 28
Statista