Paola de Simone, a college history and government professor at the Argentine University of Enterprise in Buenos Aires died while teaching her students in a virtual Zoom lecture Wednesday. The 46-year-old de Simone was battling coronavirus for weeks before her students watched in horror as she began struggling to breathe and appeared to be in distress. One of de Simone's friends told The Washington Post her death is a "sad reminder that the virus is real."
De Simone was teaching her 20th-century world history class when she suddenly stopped interacting with the slides. Her students noticed something was wrong and they offered to call an ambulance to her home, but she continued teaching, student Ana Breccia told the Post. At one point, de Simone appeared to speak with her husband, and the students stayed in the Zoom chat until he arrived. She died shortly after she collapsed during the Zoom call, Argentina's Clarin newspaper reports.
🇦🇷 | ARGENTINA
Paola de Simone, profesora universitaria de 46 años con coronavirus, murió mientras daba una clase virtual. El viernes 28 de agosto había contado que llevaba cuatro semanas con la enfermedad pic.twitter.com/qUU39tGB1h— Coronavirus NEWS🇺🇳 (@CoronavirusNewv) September 4, 2020
In the days leading up to her death, de Simone wrote about her coronavirus symptoms on a now-deleted Twitter page. Her friends and colleagues told the Post they were not surprised de Simone continued teaching. "This was not a surprise, I totally portray Paola deciding, 'I can totally do this, my students need me,'" journalist Silvina Sterin Pensel said. Her friend's death is a reminder that the virus is real, she said.
The University of Enterprise later issued a statement on de Simone's death, calling her a "passionate and dedicated teacher, and a great person," reports Clarin. She worked at the university for over 15 years and had a daughter. De Simone was a "beautiful person inside and out," Sterin Pensel told the Post. "You know those type of individuals, those women who just inspires you?"
Michelle Denise Bolo, one of de Simone's former students, recalled how de Simone built connections with her students. De Simone was "very personal but also super professional," Bolo said, adding that she was a very approachable teacher. "When I think about her, or I read her name, I imagine her like that, sitting on a desk, moving her hands, laughing and making jokes, making you feel comfortable," she told the Post.
Argentina is one of the hardest-hit Latin American countries during the coronavirus pandemic. The country has over 450,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and has reported over 9,000 deaths. The government imposed strict social distancing and lockdown requirements and blamed recent spikes on residents breaking the rules, the Associated Press reported in August. The only South American countries with more cases are Brazil, Peru, and Colombia, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Brazil, which shares a border with Argentina, has over 4 million cases.