Updated: Mar 15
Jacqueline Simon - Contributing Writer
St. Louis County Health officials have identified the area's first case of COVID-19. The patient is a 20-year old West County resident who recently returned home from studying abroad in Italy. The patient contacted health officials on March 5, 2020 with symptoms of the virus and arrangements were made to see the patient at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis County.
A presumptive positive test was confirmed on March 7, 2020 and the patient along with her family were advised to remain confined to their home. During a press conference on March 7, 2020, the Governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, and other health officials announced the diagnosis and assured the public that the state of Missouri as well as health officials were doing everything in their power to keep the public safe and to make contact with everyone the patient could have come in contact with. During the press conference health officials reassured the public that at no time were patients at the hospital at risk of contracting the virus. The proper protocol according to CDC guidelines were followed, including seeing the patient in a negative pressure hospital room, officials say. The patient wasn’t experiencing severe symptoms of the virus, so she was allowed to go home for self-quarantine. Also, during the press conference officials said the patient and her family had done everything correct to prevent any exposure of the virus to the general public.
The day after the press conference, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced via a press conference that the father and sister of the patient had gone to a pre-party at a classmate’s home and a father and daughter dance at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Clayton, Missouri after being advised to remain confined to their home. The actions of the family prompted the closing of Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School and possibly put others at risk of contracting the virus. The Archdiocese of St. Louis asked all students and faculty who attended Saturday night’s events to stay home on Monday, March 9, 2020. The family received a stern warning that if they break further self-quarantine orders, officials will get a court order requiring them to remain confined to their home.
Many people took to social media and left comments on the local news stations websites voicing their concerns as to whether officials dropped the ball when they allowed the patient and her family to voluntarily self-quarantine. Some suggested that because the family resided in a wealthy neighborhood, they were given privileges that would not have been afforded to others, especially those in poorer zip codes. The family could have exposed hundreds, if not thousands to the virus, including high schoolers. Many of the comments accused the family of being selfish and reckless with no regard for others. Time will tell if others who came in contact with the family in fact get the virus.