Updated at 10:20 p.m. March 9 with additional comments by St. Louis County officials
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Monday again expressed frustration with the family who broke a coronavirus self-quarantine. But as more cases are confirmed in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, Page said the time has come to “move forward” and focus on prevention and treatment.
“I understand many folks in the region are angry,” Page said. “I understand those feelings. Believe me, when I heard family members were out in the community, I wasn’t happy either. But we can’t let anger determine our next course of action.”
The family has self-quarantined since receiving confirmation on Saturday night that a 20-year-old family member tested positive for COVID-19. Page said the Ladue Police Department has been patrolling the neighborhood to ensure that family adheres to the quarantine. Officials also have checked with neighbors to ensure the family stays isolated, he said.
The weekend’s news sparked concern in the St. Louis region, where many people called the county coronavirus hotline seeking information. The county’s call center received 375 calls on Monday alone, said Spring Schmidt, co-director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.
Some of the calls were from schools and health care centers, she said. But most were from people who are not sick but wanted more information about whether they are at risk.
There were so many calls that staff couldn’t answer all of them, Schmidt said. She said people should call only if they have symptoms such as a cough or fever.
Those who haven’t had contact with a person who shows symptoms are at low risk for contracting the virus, Page said. People who aren’t visibly sick — such as the confirmed patient’s two family members who broke quarantine — are unlikely to spread the disease to others.
Page pushed back against claims the woman’s parents made through an attorney that the family hadn’t fully understood the self-quarantine order given on Thursday. He said he trusted that county health workers had given the family the same instructions as other people put into quarantine for other infectious diseases.
Page plans to meet with state health officials this week to review how county health workers can best inform people under quarantines what is expected of them.
“This was a lesson for everyone that a quarantine is serious, that we need to take it seriously,” Page said.
The county executive gave a more detailed timeline for how the patient and her family were notified of the diagnosis. He said county health workers were first alerted that there would be test results for the patient at 1:25 p.m. Saturday.
By 4 p.m., county government was coordinating with state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm that the woman had tested positive for COVID-19, a result that the CDC must now confirm. The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services notified the family about two and a half hours later.
Page said anyone who recently traveled China, Italy or other affected countries who has symptoms or who has been exposed to a person with a confirmed coronavirus case should isolate themselves.
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