LAWSON – A 72-year-old Lawson woman is the first person confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, COVID-19, in Ray County.
The unnamed woman is self-quarantined, Ray County Health Department Director Shelby Spor said.
“We don’t believe it’s travel related, meaning we think it was acquired in the community,” she said. “We have done an investigation and contacted anyone that may have been exposed through contact.”
The investigation led to a second step.
“If we came across someone who would have had contact, we would have notified them and given them CDC recommendations for self-isolation and monitoring their symptoms, if they were to develop any symptoms,” Spor said. “They were just encouraged to follow the guidelines.”
A second person who had contact with the Lawson woman is said to have selfquarantined, though that has not been confirmed officially.
The Lawson case underscores directives given to the public by federal, state and Ray County health officials to observe social distancing to protect themselves and others, she said.
“We’ve been trying to prevent local transmission by our stay-at-home order and recommending that people only go out for essential things,” Spor said. People who go out for essential reasons are “highly encouraged” to observe social distancing, she said.
What happened with the misnamed 1918-19 Spanish flu, which likely started in Kansas, illustrates the difference between a city that ignored and a city that observed social distancing. Spor said Philadelphia went forward with a military parade; shortly thereafter, hundreds of people in that city died from the flu. At the same time, St. Louis observed social distancing and experienced far fewer deaths.
“It is a good example,” Spor said.
Some Ray Countians are ignoring the social distancing message, including while grocery shopping, where some people wait together in front of doors for the stores to open and push together in the aisles, rather than wait for a person to buy an item and move on.
“I have had reports that there may be people not taking it as seriously as we would like,” Spor said. “Ray County residents must take it seriously, because it is within our community. We just keep trying to reiterate that. Having a positive case now just reinforces those prevention methods that we’ve been encouraging for the past few weeks.”