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St. Louis and St. Charles County report first COVID-19 deaths as virus spreads across the region

St. Louis and St. Charles County report first COVID-19 deaths as virus spreads across the region

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ST. LOUIS — St. Louis reported Monday that a woman in her 30s was the city's first death from COVID-19, as the coronavirus continued to spread.

St. Charles County also reported its first virus-related death, a man in his 70s. 

In addition, the region saw new "stay at home" orders issued on Monday, Gov. Mike Parson opted to close the Missouri State Capitol building and school closures were extended to at least a month. 

"This should be a wake-up call for all of us," Mayor Lyda Krewson said Monday at a news conference announcing the St. Louis death. "Particularly anyone who may still question whether or not this is a real thing; anyone who questions the gravity of this issue." 

The woman tested positive for the virus Sunday and had not traveled recently, said Dr. Fredrick Echols, director of the city's department of health. The city did not know Monday how she had been exposed, and city officials would not provide more details about the woman, including whether she had previous health issues. 

The St. Charles County resident had been hospitalized, but county officials provided no other information.

The announcements came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Missouri rose to 183, including at least four deaths. There were eight cases in the state one week earlier. In Illinois, the total rose to 1,285 confirmed cases Monday, including 12 deaths, up from 105 cases the week before. 

Health officials in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County had all confirmed by Monday that some cases of COVID-19 had been acquired in those communities — not through travel.

"These community-acquired cases highlight the extreme importance of social distancing," St. Charles County officials said in a statement Monday. 

Totals across the area by Monday included:

• St. Louis city — 22 cases, including one death.

• St. Louis County — 90 cases, including one death.

• St. Charles County — Six cases.

• Jefferson County — Three cases.

• Franklin County — One case.

• St. Clair County — Four cases. 

• Madison County — Two cases. 

• Monroe County — One case.

On Monday, St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann and Jefferson County Executive Dennis Gannon joined the growing list of leaders to issue a "stay home" order, instructing the counties' combined 619,000 residents to remain in their homes except for necessary errands, exercise and essential jobs. The orders take effect Tuesday.

Similar orders went into effect Monday in St. Louis and St. Louis County, prompting local school district officials in St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jefferson County to announce that schools would remain closed at least while residents were asked to stay home. The Archdiocese of St. Louis also said Monday that its Catholic grade schools and high schools would close through April 22. 

Krewson said it wasn't clear Monday how long the "stay home" order will be in effect. She said city leaders had opted for it to initially last one month because that amounted to two COVID-19 incubation periods — or the time between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms.  

"It wouldn't surprise me if we extend it," Krewson said Monday. "But hopefully we won't have to."

In Jefferson City, the governor announced Monday that Missouri’s Capitol building would close for two weeks to try to combat the spread of the virus, meaning there will be no legislative action under the dome until sometime after April 6.

The announcement by Parson also means visitors hoping to tour the century-old seat of state government will be turned away as part of the state’s reaction to the global pandemic.

“The health and safety of all Missourians, including our state workforce, is our top priority,” Parson said.

The decision to shutter the building came after Friday’s revelation that a member of the House, Rep. Joe Runions, D-Grandview, had been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Runions, 79, shares an office suite on the first floor of the building with eight other Democrats. Those who sat with him in committee hearings or nearby on the House floor quickly announced self-quarantines.

Blythe Bernhard and Kurt Erickson of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report. 

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