Two more Missourians died from the coronavirus, officials said Friday, and the number of confirmed cases of the illness nearly doubled in one day.
St. Louis County officials said a woman in her 60s, who suffered from multiple health problems prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19, had died at a hospital. Officials don’t yet know if she had traveled or how she became exposed to the virus.
Earlier Friday, on the other side of the state, Jackson County officials said a woman in her 80s had died. She had not recently traveled, raising concerns about community spread, which is when experts can’t figure out how a person caught the disease.
The deaths were the second and third in Missouri, following the death of a Boone County resident in their 60s announced Wednesday.
One of the new cases in south-central Missouri’s Pulaski County also “does not appear to be travel related,” the county health department said in a statement on Facebook. The patient is in isolation, and the health department is trying to figure out who may have had close contact with the sick person.
The county is taking other steps, including closing all schools for at least two weeks and restricting dine-in service at bars and restaurants.
Missouri is one of a few states that didn’t actually order schools to close, but officials said all 555 districts were now shut down.
Some public health officials in the state want Gov. Mike Parson to force people to stay home. The Kansas City Star obtained a letter dated Friday from the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence, a group of public health departments representing half of the state’s population. The letter urged the governor, a Republican, to require that residents can leave home only for medical reasons, work or to get food.
Parson’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Missourians left without a job due to all the closures won’t be able to get immediate in-person help from the state, which announced that all job centers are now closed to in-person services for at least a week. People seeking unemployment insurance can call the Department of Labor and Industrial Relation’s hotline at 1-800-320-2519 or go to uinteract.labor.mo.gov.
“Despite these closures, we are committed to working with job seekers during this unprecedented time,” Mardy Leathers, director of the Office of Workforce Development, said in a statement.
State health officials said St. Louis County and Kansas City had the most cases, followed by Greene County.
Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said in an online announcement Thursday that students would not be required to take statewide tests this spring, nor would schools be required to make up for missed days. Most districts across Missouri have called off in-person classes.