Fred Echols | St. Louis Public Radio

Fred Echols

Carla Harris takes medication for Diabetes and heart palpitations. Like Many African Americans, she's concerned that her pre-existing condition makes her more susceptible to COVID-19., May 18, 2020
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Carla Harris sent her 15-year-old daughter to stay with a family member in St. Louis County several weeks ago. Harris is a certified nurse assistant and patient care technician who works in a St. Louis-area hospital. Her husband works in a nursing facility. 

Like many African Americans with pre-existing health conditions, they worry that they're vulnerable to the coronavirus, which has disproportionately hit black communities in the region. She lives with diabetes and takes medication for heart palpitations, and he has bronchitis. Harris said they know quite a few people who have lost a loved one to COVID-19.

A man at the encampment speaks to police and as onlookers videotape the exchange Friday morning.
Lindsay Toler | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 11:40 a.m. May 2 with the court's ruling

A federal judge has denied a request to block the City of St. Louis from clearing a downtown camp of homeless people. 

The fate of the encampment off Market Street now is uncertain, as it is not clear when the city will take action. A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said her office is reviewing the decision.

St. Louis University's Institute for Healing Justice and Equity co-founder Ruqaiijah Yearby said the city needs to provide resources for those minority groups with limited access to health care to begin making the city's health care system equitable.
Saint Louis University

On April 8, St. Louis health director Dr. Fred Echols penned a column for the St. Louis American, in which he revealed that the first 12 COVID-19-related deaths in the city were African Americans.

At that time, no detailed racial data about who the virus was affecting was readily available to the public.

The new coronavirus has been detected in dozens of countries, including the United States. It gets its name from its protruding spikes, which resemble a crown.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

African Americans in St. Louis County are about four times more likely to become sick from COVID-19 as white people, according to the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

The most recent data showed that 316 African Americans per 100,000 county residents become sick from COVID-19. About 80 white residents out of that population become sick with the disease. As of Friday, there were 70 deaths in the county.

Officials in Missouri and Illinois say a quarantine is the best way to ensure that people exposed to the new coronavirus do not put others at risk.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

People with asthma may be at a higher risk of becoming very sick and dying from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means black people in St. Louis’ poorest neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus epidemic. Several ZIP codes in north St. Louis have asthma hospitalization rates nearly twice that of the city as a whole, according to state health data compiled by the Conduent Healthy Communities Institute.

Fredrick Echols, director of the St. Louis Department of Health, speaks about the city's response to COVID-19 during a news conference at City Hall on March 12, 2020.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:18 p.m. with more information from St. Louis officials

All 12 people in St. Louis who have died of COVID-19 were African Americans, the city’s health director wrote today in the St. Louis American.

Dr. Fred Echols wrote in an op-ed that the pandemic points to the local health disparities; black residents often lack access to health care and have a high incidence of diabetes and heart conditions.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson speaks about the city's response to COVID-19 during a news conference at City Hall on Thursday afternoon, March 12, 2020.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is banning organized gatherings of more than 1,000 people to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. 

The announcement from city officials Thursday afternoon came as dozens of local businesses, sports teams and arts venues announced they were limiting attendance or temporarily shutting down. Mayor Lyda Krewson said that the decision was difficult but that the public health benefit was worth the economic cost.

St. Louis Health Director Dr. Fred Echols addresses media on Feb. 28, 2020. Echols says although there are no coronavirus cases in Missouri, residents should be prepared to prevent the virus.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-area health officials say they expect to see the new coronavirus arrive in St. Louis, and they want residents to be prepared. 

At a press conference Friday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said that the respiratory disease's arrival in the Midwest was not a question of "if" but of "when."

“We know how epidemics travel, those models are predictable,” said Page, a doctor. “It will be in our community at some point, and we will be prepared to treat it.”

A person prepares a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which protects against 93-97 percent of measles cases. Health officials say a case has been reported in Jefferson County.
Matthew Lotz / U.S. Air Force

The St. Louis Department of Health is urging people to receive a measles shot before the busy summer travel season begins.

The U.S. largely eradicated measles decades ago thanks to effective immunizations, but the disease has had a resurgence of recent years as more people choose to not vaccinate their children.

Many of the outbreaks nationwide this year have occurred after people have traveled to countries where the disease is more common and spread it to under-vaccinated communities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.