Dr. Echols and Mayor Lyda Krewson

St. Louis City Health Department Director Dr. Fredrick Echols and Mayor Lyda Krewson provided an update on plans and precautions in response to  coronavirus on Thursday, March 12 at City Hall. Photo by Wiley Price

A St. Louis city woman in her 30s has died due to COVID-19, marking the first novel coronavirus-related death for the City of St. Louis. 

Health officials said the woman had not traveled and didn’t know where she caught the virus. 

“This should be a wake-up call for all of us,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said at a 2 p.m. press conference on Monday, March 23, “particularly for anyone who questions the gravity of this issue. We know COVID-19 is very, very serious.”

There is evidence that COVID-19 is now community spread, meaning that it is being contracted from others in the area rather than being strictly travel-related, said Dr. Fredrick Echols, director of the city’s health department. 

“There’s been rumors and myths circulating in the community,” Echols 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.” 

Echols said the health department is working with her family to track where she may have been exposed to the virus. She tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, but she had been hospitalized for “a little while,” Krewson said. Officials declined to say exactly when she died.

As of 2 p.m. on March 23, the city has recorded 20 cases, Echols said, and that’s up from 14 cases on March 22. However, Echols said they are being updated by the state “minute by minute.”

On Friday, March 20, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced the county’s first COVID-19-related death. It wasJudy Wilson-Griffin, a nurse at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital. 

On Sunday, the county reported its largest number of new cases on one day to date – 38. That brought the total number of positive cases in the county to 55, as of March 22. The county also reported its first teenager with COVID-19 and nine new cases in their twenties.

Starting today, all city and county residents have been ordered to stay at home until April 22. The order means that everyone in the city and the county — including incorporated and unincorporated areas — must stay home, except for making essential trips or outdoor recreation. Everyone must abide by social distancing guidelines at all times, including staying six feet from other people outside of their households.

It also means that all county businesses and city businesses are required to cease all activities, except for “minimum basic operations” and working from home. The order restricts travel to things like going to work at an “essential business,” to buy food, to care for other people, and to get learning materials or meals from schools.

The goal is to stop the spread of the disease, Krewson said, and to prevent other deaths.

Krewson said, “On behalf of myself, my team, all of us here in the city, I send my deepest condolences and sympathy to this individual’s family, friends and loved ones.”

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