Missouri News

Ralls County resident is Northeast Missouri's first COVID-19 diagnosis

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 24, 2020 6:10 pm Updated: Mar. 24, 2020 9:39 pm

HANNIBAL, Mo. — A pair of Northeast Missouri residents have tested positive for COVID-19, which has sickened hundreds of thousands people worldwide, including 255 in Missouri. 

The virus also is responsible for the death of thousands of people around the world, including five Missourians and 16 Illinois residents.  

The announcement was made Tuesday evening by Hannibal Regional Healthcare System officials and confirmed by Hannibal Regional Healthcare System President and CEO Todd Ahrens.

The first case is a female Ralls County resident between the age of 70 and 80 years of age. She contracted the virus while traveling and is recovering at home in self-quarantine. 

The second case involves a male Shelby County resident between the age of 50 and 60. He is hospitalized and recovering at Hannibal Regional Hospital. It is not believed that the patient contracted the virus while traveling. 

Officials say it is unknown how long the unidentified male and female were sick with the virus before showing symptoms. 

“We are in the very early stages of processing this information. I personally did not learn about these results until about 4 o'clock this afternoon. We will certainly be conducting a social tracing review to see if people, especially our team members here at the hospital, were exposed,” Ahrens said in an interview with The Herald-Whig. He added the hospital has administered approximately between 20 to 25 tests. Two of those tests are still pending, but all other tests have been negative. 

Both the unidentified patients were tested either Sunday or Monday. The tests were processed at a state laboratory facility in Jefferson City. 

Our news-gathering partners at WGEM report that officials at Salt River Community Care in Shelbina, say the man diagnosed was a resident of the retirement home. Officials there would not reveal the information about the resident, but say they are working in conjunction with the Shelby County Health Department and Department of Health and Senior Services.

Officials at Salt River Community Care also told WGEM they are continuing to screen staff and monitoring residents for symptoms, and that no other residents have been experiencing symptoms at this time.

The hospital will continue to release information about positive COVID-19 test results in the future, Ahrens said. 

“We feel a very deep responsibility to let folks know about test results during this pandemic,” Ahrens said. He also cautioned that as more people are tested that the number of confirmed positive cases is likely to climb. 

“We very well may be just in the early stages of testing for the virus. For example, the city of Hannibal is home to 18,000 people and Marion County is home to 30,000 people. We've only tested a very small fraction of the people who live in the Hannibal area,” Ahrens said. 

Given the likelihood that more positive test results may be announced in the coming days, weeks and months, Ahrens said he hoped the news of the positive diagnosis did not result in pandemonium. 

“The public should stay calm. The staff here at Hannibal Regional Hospital have been preparing for this day for several weeks. We have been meeting constantly, preparing for all sorts of situations, including worst case scenarios where there is a surge in patients here. We have done a lot of work to prepare not just the staff, but to make sure we have the actual beds, the actual space, and the actual personal protective equipment our team members may need. Area residents should have a very high comfort level, as I do, in our ability to respond to this virus.”

 He also encouraged residents to be careful about where they get information related to the COVID-19 virus. 

“There is a lot of information out there on the internet and on social media, but unfortunately it seems to be a lot of misinformation. Please go to trusted resources that are going to give you accurate information, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and reputable news organizations. Just because you saw it online on Facebook does not make it true.” 

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