LADUE, Mo. – Two Catholic schools in suburban St. Louis have been temporarily closed after close relatives of the first person in Missouri to become ill with the new coronavirus attended a dance with students, and Amtrak is notifying those who took the same train from Chicago as the infected woman that they may have been exposed.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said at a news conference Sunday that the patient's family was told on Thursday to self quarantine at their home in Ladue after the young woman returned home from Italy and was sick but had not yet been confirmed as having COVID-19. But Page said the woman's family didn't follow the health department's instructions, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School in Frontenac said in a message to parents that the father and sister of the infected woman attended the father-daughter dance Saturday night at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. KSDK reports that they left as soon as they learned about the positive test result. The two schools have a combined total of 431 students.
They also apparently attended a pre-dance gathering at the house of a family whose children attend Villa and the private John Burroughs School in Ladue. John Burroughs School head Andy Abbott said Monday that a small number of Burroughs students went to the home after the father and daughter left, according to information posted on the school's website. Although the students had no direct exposure, they won't be allowed to return to school for two weeks, a period that includes spring break.
Page said health officials have told the father "that he must remain in his home or they will issue a formal quarantine that will require him and the rest of his family to stay in their home by the force of law."
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
County and state health officials have not released details of other places the family members have visited. At Deer Creek Coffee in Ladue, staff called health officials and started cleaning after the family called to share that the father had been there Saturday morning while he was supposed to be quarantined.
"Disinfectant and bleach, a thorough cleaning," said Brent McCarty, owner of Deer Creek Coffee. "There is no cleaner surface right now than at Deer Creek Coffee. I can promise you that."
The woman in her 20s tested positive for coronavirus after returning home from Italy, where she was studying and which has become the epicenter of Europe's outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Indiana University confirmed Monday that a student from St. Louis tested positive for coronavirus after returning home from a study abroad program in Italy. The student was the second from the university to contract the virus.
Before seeking treatment, the woman flew into Chicago O'Hare International Airport on March 2, stayed with a friend, then took an Amtrak train home to St. Louis on Wednesday, according to Doug Moore, a spokesman for Page.
The woman contacted the St. Louis County Department of Public Health on Thursday because she was starting to feel ill, Moore said. She apparently stayed home and did not have contact with anyone until she was instructed to go to Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur for testing on Friday.
The message from Villa, an all-girls school for seventh- to 12th-graders, and Oak Hill, which serves coed preschoolers through sixth-graders, advises students and parents who attended the dance to be attentive to symptoms.
Amtrak said in a news release that it is notifying passengers and employees who were on Amtrak train 303 with the woman. The release said that as a precaution, the train also has been taken out of service for comprehensive cleaning. The train stations in Chicago and St. Louis also are being cleaned.
Amtrak, Moore and an official for Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School didn't immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press inquiring about how many people may have been exposed.
The process of determining who needs to be notified, checked for symptoms and tested is unfolding, said Spring Schmidt, acting co-director of the county health department.
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