Update: Missouri woman who died of coronavirus worked for Red Cross

ST. LOUIS (AP) – The youngest of the eight people to die of the coronavirus outbreak in Missouri was a 31-year-old Red Cross employee who was buried as her family watched from their cars.

The American Red Cross Missouri-Arkansas Region said besides the death of biomedical services employee Jazmond Dixon in St. Louis, one other Red Cross worker tested positive and another staff member is presumed to be positive but has not been tested. None of the three had contact with the public as part of their daily duties, KSDK reported.Dixon was buried on Tuesday. The other seven deaths include three women who lived at an assisted-living center in Springfield. A fourth resident of the Morningside East home is hospitalized.

In a statement to KLTO, Classic Hits and The Boot news from Red Cross, an official says:

“The American Red Cross recently learned that a Biomedical Services employee who worked in a non-public facing function at our Lindell Avenue building in St. Louis has passed away due to COVID-19. Our hearts and greatest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this employee during this difficult time.

We know this is an uncertain and trying time for many in St. Louis and in communities across the country. The Red Cross remains committed to supporting the community and those we serve as part of our lifesaving mission. We do want to note that the individual did not come into contact with donors or other members of the public as part of their daily job duties.

In the interest of remaining vigilant, the Red Cross implemented enhanced cleaning of the entire Lindell building last week which includes the regularly wiping down of common surfaces, such as doors, handrails, elevator buttons and countertops. This past weekend, following notification of an ill employee, we also completed an additional enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of the building, using CDC recommended chemicals. Out of an abundance of caution, we have closed the Donor Center today and are conducting deep cleaning of the entire area. We take the safety of our employees, volunteers and donors seriously.

There is no known exposure risk to donors who have visited this center. We want to emphasize that donating blood is a safe process and that Red Cross staff already adhere to the highest standards of safety and infection control.

Earlier this month, we also added additional safety protocols which include asking all of those at our blood donation center — both staff and donors — to use hand sanitizer before entering a drive, and throughout the drive as needed. In addition, we implemented standard staff health assessments prior to all blood drives to ensure staff are healthy the day of the drive. The Red Cross had also begun taking temperature checks of presenting donors before they enter the blood drive or donation center. These mitigation measures help ensure staff and donor safety in reducing contact with those who may potentially have this, or any, respiratory infection.

The need for blood is constant and will continue throughout this outbreak. Volunteer donors are the only source of blood for those in need.”

State health officials reported 255 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, an increase from 183 on Monday as testing capacity increases.

The ill include five members of a St. Louis-area family, including a teacher at a preschool where several teachers have the virus. Jane Weinhaus, who teaches at Deutsch Early Childhood Center at Congregation Temple Israel in Creve Coeur, was hospitalized on a ventilator for more than a week before she was removed from it Tuesday. Her husband, Michael Weinhaus, is hospitalized on high-flow oxygen, son Jason Weinhaus told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jason Weinhaus, his brother Ryan Weinhaus and Ryan’s wife, Dr. Brittanie Weinhaus, have tested positive but have nearly recovered, Jason Weinhaus said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Cox South Hospital in Springfield said it plans to build what it calls a hospital within a hospital for COVID-19 patients. A currently vacant floor will be rebuilt into areas for patients needing ventilator support, using a large open room rather than individual rooms. It is expected to open by April 9.

Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, said in a statement several floors of a new tower were left empty when the hospital doubled in size five years ago so they could be developed as needed.

“A need in our community is now here, and we are ready to help our patients have the best chance of recovery that we can give them by developing some of that space,” Edwards said. “I pray it is never used.”

Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday announced he asked President Donald Trump to approve a federal disaster declaration that would allow the state to receive federal assistance to help the unemployed and to remove biohazardous materials.

While Parson has refused to enact a statewide stay-at-home order, the state’s largest cities — Kansas City, St. Louis, St. Joseph, Springfield and Columbia — have enacted stay-at-home orders, and a ban on non-essential business in Branson took effect Tuesday.

Trump has said he “would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” on April 12. But that statement sharply contradicted health official’ calls for stricter restrictions on public interactions. Scientists and other politicians in the U.S. have warned that the worst is yet to come.

“I hope the president is right,” Parson, a Republican and staunch Trump ally, said Tuesday, “but the reality is we are planning this much longer than two weeks here in the state of Missouri.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, a Democrat, called the president’s shifting message “incredibly distressing,” The Kansas City Star reported. While acknowledging the “incredibly deleterious” impact to Kansas City’s economy, he added: “I also know that if people die, I can’t bring them back.”

Meanwhile, at least one Missouri college will not require ACT or SAT testing for potential incoming freshmen amid college entrance exam cancellations. Westminster College in Fulton said Wednesday it would evaluate applicants based on grade point average and other factors.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday extended through April 17 its statewide suspension on in-person court proceedings. The state Supreme Court on March 16 had suspended in-person proceedings through April 3.

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