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Brown professor says he requested coronavirus test after trip to Europe

Health Services emails students of professor who fell sick, now feels recovered

Onésimo Almeida, professor of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, said he has requested a test for COVID-19 coronavirus following a trip to Portugal during which Almeida was near someone recently diagnosed with the virus.

Alemeida told The Herald that the Rhode Island Department of Health did not give him a test after he returned from his trip Feb. 23 feeling some of the cold-like symptoms that characterize the early stages of COVID-19. Although Alemeida has canceled class for his course UNIV 1520: “The Shaping of World Views” since Feb. 24, he said he has been feeling “95 percent recovered” and will try to Skype into future classes rather than attend in person.

Almeida said how Rhode Island is handling the spread of COVID-19 is "a shame." “People from Portugal have been calling me, and I have to say, they are stunned that in the West this is how this is being handled,” he said. Almeida said that he was told he did not qualify for a test because Portugal was not on the list of five countries the department was most concerned about.

Joseph Wendelken, public information officer at the RIDOH, did not comment on whether or not Almeida received a test or why a test would not be administered to someone in Almeida's situation. He did tell The Herald that the state is following testing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wendelken also forwarded an email from Adam Pallant, clinical director of University Health Services, which was sent to students taking Almeida’s class late Sunday night. The email confirmed that Health Services had “received notification from a community member who has communicated about believed exposure to COVID-19” and that RIDOH was “directly involved in this scenario” and that there was “no need to maintain yourself in quarantine.”

On Monday, Feb. 24 Almeida said he “still taught a class ... but I stayed away from everybody. I told my students I don’t want to be close to them because I don’t want to … affect them.”

The following Wednesday, Almeida was feeling worse and canceled class “for the first time in my life,” he said, and then canceled again on Friday.

Almeida said he began receiving a flood of emails Saturday night with the news that a Chilean writer and his wife, both of whom were at the conference he attended in Portugal the week before, had tested positive for COVID-19. Almeida sat next to the writer’s wife for two hours during a conference section, but they “did not have very close contact,” he said. Both the writer and his wife had recently been in Italy, where the virus has now infected at least 1,600 people, causing the CDC to warn people to “avoid nonessential travel” to the country.

Although Almeida feels better, he is still unsure about whether he will receive a test or when he’ll return to class. He said he is in communication with University deans about the possibility of holding his classes over video chat.

In Rhode Island, two people have tested positive for the virus this weekend after returning from a school field trip to Europe, The Herald previously reported.

Update: Almeida tested negative for COVID-19. Read more here



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