KANSAS CITY (AP)—Two more Missourians died from the coronavirus, officials said Friday, and the number of confirmed cases of the illness nearly doubled in one day.
St. Louis County officials said a woman in her 60s, who suffered from multiple health problems prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19, died at a hospital. Officials don't yet know if she had traveled or how she became exposed to the virus.
Earlier Friday, on the other side of the state, Jackson County officials said a woman in her 80s died. She had not recently traveled, raising concerns about community spread, which is when experts can't figure out how a person caught the disease.
The deaths were the second and third in Missouri, following the death of a Boone County resident in their 60s announced Wednesday.
The total number of confirmed cases in Missouri rose to 47 by the state's count, up from 28 a day earlier. But that didn't include five new cases announced in Kansas City, as well as new cases in St. Charles County and Cole County, bringing the unofficial total to 54. The jump was largely attributable to private lab test results being reported to the state.
Among the new cases is a Missouri legislator. House leaders, in a statement, did not identify the lawmaker or offer details about their condition but said efforts are underway to notify House members and staff who may have had contact.
The University of Missouri also said two employees tested positive and have quarantined themselves at home. No other details about the employees were released.
Gov. Mike Parson escalated efforts to slow the spread, announcing that gatherings of more than 10 people will be banned, effective Saturday. He stressed that the order won't require businesses to close and includes exceptions for hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, and government and religious services.
Some public health officials in the state want Parson to force people to stay home. The Kansas City Star obtained a letter dated Friday from the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence, a group of public health departments representing half of the state’s population. The letter urged the Republican governor to require that residents can only leave home for medical reasons, work or to get food.
Parson’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
One of the new cases in south-central Missouri’s Pulaski County also “does not appear to be travel related,” the county health department said in a statement on Facebook. The patient is in isolation and the health department is trying to figure out who may have had close contact with the sick person.
Missourians left without a job due to all the closures won’t be able to get immediate in-person help from the state, which announced that all job centers are now closed to in-person services for at least a week. People seeking unemployment insurance can call the Department of Labor and State Industrial Relation’s hotline at 1-800-320-2519 or go to uinteract.labor.mo.gov.
For most people, the 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.
Branson city leaders banned social gatherings of more than 10 people, including performances and shows in the tourist destination. Businesses will be allowed to stay open if they don't exceed 25% of occupancy. Two major tourist attractions, Silver Dollar City and The Branson Belle river boat, have temporarily suspended operations.