SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– In the third week of 2020, the United States recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Now, Ozarks First is taking a look back at some of the more notable moments in what became an unprecedented national experience.
January 19, 2020: The first case in our nation
While reports about a mysterious virus in China had surfaced as early as December of 2019, the first case of what would come to be known as COVID-19 didn’t show up in America until a few weeks later.
According to the CDC, a Washington man had just returned from a trip to Wuhan, China.
February 29, 2020: The first death in America
In February, the first coronavirus-caused death on U.S. soil was reported. Medical researchers have since determined the first cases and deaths took place in the country earlier than expected.
”The person who died was a patient at Evergeen Hospital who had underlying health conditions,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer in Seattle and King County. “It was a male in his ’50s.”
March 7, 2020: First COVID-19 case reported in Missouri
The first case of COVID-19 identified in Missouri was announced by Governor Mike Parson in early March. The carrier was reported to be a woman in her 20s who had just returned home to St. Louis County, after taking a trip to Italy.
“The Missouri state public health laboratory has reported a presumptive positive result for Covid-19 and has forwarded to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation,” said Gov. Parson. “As Governor, I have no greater responsibility than to keep all Missourians healthy and safe.”
March 12, 2020: Reports in Greene County
Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, announced the first confirmed case of the virus in Greene County just five days after the first case was documented in Missouri.
In a press briefing, Goddard confirmed the county’s first carrier may have contracted the virus from a group of international travelers.
March 18, 2020: First death due to COVID-19 in Missouri
“It’s unfortunate we’re going to be here speaking today,” said Gov. Parson.
March 23, 2020: First death reported in Greene County
Health Director Clay Goddard hosted a press briefing to announce the first death in the county.
“I take this next announcement very personally,” Goddard said. “I am heartbroken to report the first death from COVID-19 in our community.”
The patient was a female in her 80s, according to Goddard.
March 24, 2020: Springfield-Greene County Stay-At-Home Order
One day after the Springfield-Greene County community lost the first of its own to COVID-19, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure announced the Stay-At-Home Order. Businesses deemed “non-essential” were shuttered and many workers were sent home.
“The order requires Springfieldians to stay at home except for essential activities, as our community continues to work through the slow and spread of COVID-19,” said Ken McClure, mayor of Springfield.
The order went into effect on March 26 and was set to last 30 days.
Governor Parson ordered schools remain closed through the end of the academic year on April 9.
May 22, 2020: Positive Great Clips workers see 100+ clients
In the late Spring of 2020, an incident in Springfield became a national news headline and an early case study in the effectiveness of masking.
Multiple hairstylists at a Springfield Great Clips location tested positive for the virus after being in close proximity to over 100 clients. One of the customers during that time, Machelle Warren, remembers receiving the call from the Health Department about the exposure.
“They told me I had come into contact with somebody who had tested positive for COVID-19,” said Warren. “Before I could even think about it, I was like what?!”
May 27, 2020: Bar owner responds to viral party video
Over the course of the Memorial Day Weekend, a large group of unmasked party-goers was caught on cell phone video. A few days later, the owner of the bar at which the video was taken responded.
July 13, 2020: Springfield passes a masking ordinance
Mid-year, the Springfield City Council voted in favor of a city-wide masking mandate. The call came after countless members of the public weighed in. Many were in favor. Others saw the mandate as a violation of their freedoms.
“It’s not the government’s job to make sure I stay healthy,” one citizen told Council.
The ordinance went into effect three days later, on July 16.
July 23, 2020: City sued over masking requirement
Kristi Fulnecky, a former Springfield City Council member and mayoral contender, acted as a legal representative in a mask-mandate-challenging suit against the city.
“The very grounds used by the mayor and city council to pass this ordinance are absurd,” Fulnecky wrote in a statement. “The chances of dying from violent crime in our city are higher than the chance of dying from COVID-19.”
September 23, 2020: Governor Parson tests positive for COVID-19
The Department of Health and Senior Services confirmed both Gov. Mike Parson and his wife, First Lady Theresa Parson, both tested positive. While the First Lady reported “cold-like” symptoms. Both remained in isolation for 10 days.
The positive test would result in the postponement of a debate against then-gubernatorial candidate, Nicole Galloway.
October 5, 2020: Springfield extends masking ordinance through to 2021
The Springfield City Council voted to pass the extension, pushing the mandate expiration nine days into the new year on Jan. 9, 2021.
The ordinance also raised the capacity of special events on public property from 25% to 50% based on square footage of a place or business.
November 6, 2020: Missouri tops over 200k cases of COVID-19
Throughout the month of November, the case total continue to rise, hitting 239,451 before the Thanksgiving Holiday. Seeing a potential linkage between the festivities and case counts, health experts would later urge the public to exercise heightened precaution.
“Perhaps instead of gathering in person with Grandmother,” Greene County Commissioner Bob Dixon said on Nov. 18, “you will commit to calling her weekly.”
December 14, 2020: Mercy hospital hosts first COVID-19 vaccine inoculation
The Pfizer vaccine, which was authorized for emergency use by the Federal Drug Administration, arrived at Mercy Hospital at 7:30 a.m. on December 14, 2020. It was moved into the ultracold freezer, then pharmacy staff began the process of thawing out a portion of the vaccines for use.
“[I’m] relieved, excited, a little bit more hopeful for the future, maybe,” one of the two newly-vaccinated Mercy nurses said.