Judy Wilson-Griffin, an African-American nurse who worked at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, was the first person in the St. Louis region to succumb to COVID-19.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page identified her only as a St. Louis County woman when he announced her death on Friday, March 20, the day she died. She was the first coronavirus-related death in the county and the region.
Page said she had multiple health complications prior to contracting the virus. She was tested earlier that week and diagnosed 48 hours later.
SSM Health told The American that “Judy had not been sick for several weeks,” as some other media reported. “She has been out on personal time.”
“Judy Wilson-Griffin was a beloved member of our family. Our hearts break for her family and friends and we will keep them in our prayers as we cope with the loss of our cherished colleague and friend,” SSM Health said in a statement.
“One of our physicians put it best: ‘Judy was an incredible nurse, educator, leader and person. Her passion and dedication was second to none. She was a hero in the truest sense.’”
Page said that public health officials do not know if she had traveled. One public health official said they are left with the assumption that it was “other acquired.” That may mean the woman caught the virus from within the community.
“That is the expectation that we expected to happen throughout St. Louis County,” the official said, “and we do believe that time is here.”
However, officials said they couldn’t confirm that it was “community spread.”
St. Louis County had 10 confirmed cases as of March 19, and five cases were under investigation. Forty-nine tests have returned negative results.
Page said that the testing requirements at all locations are still restricted to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, which are that a person must have a fever, have traveled to a high-risk location or have been exposed to a person with COVID-19.
“There are no words that can heal the pain of a loved one’s death. We are quickly seeing the toll that the coronavirus is taking on so many families’ lives,” ” Page said.
“We are in this together, and it is compassion for each other that will get us through this. As one community, we will find hope.”