County woman is first Missouri coronavirus case

ST. LOUIS COUNTY (AP) — A St. Louis-area woman who recently traveled to Italy is Missouri’s first confirmed coronavirus case, officials said Saturday.

The woman is in her 20s and is at home with her parents, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a physician, said at a news conference with Gov. Mike Parson. She was returning home from Italy when she showed symptoms.

She was tested at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, and officials said the hospital made sure that she was kept away from other patients. She was sent home because she wasn’t sick enough to warrant a hospital stay, Page said.

“This person returned home, followed all the proper procedures for the quarantine and when they became symptomatic, they were tested in a local facility. Everyone in that local facility followed all the proper precautions,” Page said. “They are safe and that institution is safe.”

Italy has been the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19. Venice canceled last month its annual Carnival festival, which comes ahead of the Christian season of Lent. The Vatican decided to livestream the pope’s Sunday blessing to prevent people from gathering at St. Peter’s Square.

Page said it was possible that other travel-related cases would arise in Missouri. Parson said 26 people in the state had been tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, and three tests remained in progress.

The governor said that when the state’s first case occurred, “it worked like it was supposed to work. Everybody did their jobs.”

The Missouri announcement came the same day that neighboring Kansas confirmed its first coronavirus case, a woman under 50 from the Kansas City area who traveled to the Northeast.

Their announcements also came as Florida reported two coronavirus deaths, the first outside the West Coast. The total U.S. death toll reached 19.

The number of U.S. coronavirus cases swelled to 400, with cases in about half of the states. Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania also recently reported their first cases.

Page said the St. Louis County woman with the coronavirus and her parents assured officials that they had not left the home other than to go the hospital since she started to show symptoms a few days ago. The parents are not showing any symptoms, he said.

Officials said they would be contacting people who might have come in contact with the woman to see whether they were showing symptoms, which include a cough, slight fever and shortness of breath.

U.S. public health officials have urged people to follow the steps they would to avoid the seasonal flu, such as washing their hands or using hand sanitizer.

“This coronavirus may be new, but the ways to prevent it are tried-and-true and well-established,” Page said. “This is not time to panic.”

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