St. Louis County had its first death from coronavirus March 20, as total cases spiked from two to at least 55, officials said.
“Today is a sad day in St. Louis County,” County Executive Sam Page said at a press conference. “Today we learned that a county resident died from the coronavirus. These are words that I prayed that I would not have to say.”
Significantly, the woman’s case could not be traced to any travel or contact with another person who had tested positive for coronavirus, which means that St. Louis County now has “community spread,” or the respiratory illness infecting residents while out in the community.
“We do believe that time is here,” said county Department of Public Health co-director Spring Schmidt.
Community spread was confirmed two days later when county cases jumped from 17 to 55 in a single day.
Although the county does not identify specific locations of patients who test positive, Page said that cases of the coronavirus are geographically located across the entire county.
“As days turn into weeks, the coronavirus will infect us all,” Page said, offering his condolences to the patient’s family.
The patient was diagnosed with the virus last week and died in a hospital, Dr. David Tannehill from Mercy Clinic said.
The woman had underlying complications other than the virus. She was tested immediately on admission March 17, and the result came back two days later.
The woman, Judy Wilson-Griffin, was a nurse at SSM Health who had been on leave before her hospitalization. SSM called her a “hero in the truest sense.”
Of the 38 new cases in St. Louis County, eight are in people in their 60s, 14 are people in their 50s, three in their 40s, three in their 30s and nine in their 20s.
Six of the new infections were not travel-related, officials said.
That provided further proof that community spread is at play with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
“Epidemiological investigations indicate there is clear evidence of community transmission in St. Louis County,” a spokesman said Sunday.