Boston, MA – A Biogen employee is facing charges in China after she intentionally hid symptoms of coronavirus in order to board a flight to Shanghai.
More than 100 of the 328 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Massachusetts as of Thursday have tracked back to the Biogen’s leadership meeting at the Marriott Long Wharf hotel on the Boston waterfront in late February, the Boston Globe reported.
Biogen is a Cambridge-based biotechnical firm.
Additionally, Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Norway, Germany, Austria, and Argentina have all reported COVID-19 cases believed to be connected to the Biogen conference, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jie Li, associate director of biostatistics for Biogen Inc., didn’t attend the conference but had close contact with somebody who did, the Boston Globe reported.
She developed symptoms of the coronavirus and went to the doctor in the Boston area several times.
Li, 37, was tested for coronavirus with a group of other Biogen employees at Massachusetts General Hospital in early March but then she left for China before her results came back, according to the Boston Globe.
By the time the Massachusetts Department of Public Health attempted to contact Li at her Belmont home, she had already left the Boston area.
Authorities have not said how Li and her family got from Boston to Los Angeles, but they boarded a China Air flight from LAX to Beijing on March 12, the Boston Globe reported.
Li is accused of having taken antipyretic drugs to reduce her fever so that she wouldn’t be detected by airline officials who were testing passengers for symptoms of coronavirus.
Reports said that only an hour after the flight took off, Li told a flight attendant she didn’t feel well and was relocated to an area behind a curtain in the back of the plane, the Boston Globe reported.
At some point midflight, she told them she was running a fever.
After 13 hours in the air, the flight landed and Li was transported to the hospital, the Boston Globe reported.
Her husband also tested positive for corona virus.
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Almost 60 other passengers from Li’s China Air flight have been quarantined after having been exposed to the sick person, the Boston Globe reported.
Li hadn’t told her employers that she was leaving the United State when she did, and they didn’t find out about what had happened until a member of the Chinese public who saw media reports about it there contacted the Belmont Health Department.
Since then, the Massachusetts Port Authority has been notified and has tried to notify other travelers who may have been exposed to Li and her family, the Boston Globe reported.
Beijing authorities launched an investigation into Li’s flight to China, lying to the airline, and her attempt to cover up coronavirus symptoms.
Government-controlled Chinese media reported that officials were trying to decide whether to charge Li with impeding the prevention of infectious disease, the Boston Globe reported.
Biogen explained that they hadn’t realized Li had left because she disappeared during the timeframe while employees were transitioning into working from home because of the pandemic.
The company said it had terminated Li, the Boston Globe reported.
“We can confirm that Ms. Li was a U.S. Biogen employee who made the personal decision to travel to China without informing the company and ignoring the guidance of health experts,” Biogen spokesman David Caouette said Thursday. “We are deeply dismayed by the situation as reported by the media in China.”