St. Louis Woman in Her 30s First in City to Die of Coronavirus

click to enlarge Dr. Fredrick Echols and Mayor Lyda Krewson, photographed on March 12, say the death shows the gravity of the coronavirus. - DOYLE MURPHY
Dr. Fredrick Echols and Mayor Lyda Krewson, photographed on March 12, say the death shows the gravity of the coronavirus.

A St. Louis woman in her 30s has become the first person in the city to die as a result of COVID-19, officials announced today.

"On behalf of myself, my team, all of us here in the city, I send my deepest condolences to the individual's family, to their friends and to all their loved ones," Mayor Lyda Krewson said at a news conference. "This should be a wake-up call to all of us, particularly anyone who may still question whether or not this is a real thing, anyone who questions the gravity of this issue."

City officials released only the sparest of details about the woman, citing federal privacy laws.  They did say she was hospitalized recently and tested positive on Sunday. She didn't contract the virus through travel, St. Louis Director of Health Fredrick Echols said.

"Exactly where the exposure occurred, we don't know," he said.

Echols issued a "stay at home" order on Saturday that will go into effect at 6 p.m. today, banning gatherings of any size, limiting travel and closing all businesses not deemed "essential." Essential businesses include grocery stores and gas stations among others.

As of today, the city has twenty known cases of COVID-19, although experts say reported numbers in the United States are probably a fraction of the actual cases as the country struggles to roll out more testing.

St. Louis County, which recorded another 38 confirmed cases on Sunday, had its first death from the virus on Friday, when 63-year-old Judy Griffin Wilson, a nurse at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital died after being hospitalized. She had underlying health problems, county officials said.

The city and county say there is now evidence of "community spread" of COVID-19, as opposed to early cases of people contracting it in high-risk areas and returning to St. Louis.

The death of the unidentified woman in the city should be a grave reminder of the severity of the virus and dispel bad information about who is at risk, Echols said.

"There's been rumors and myths circulating in the community," the health director said. "One of those myths is that young people can't get it. This case is evidence that young people can get it, and that it can cause death."

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