News Briefs

KC fire captain dies of COVID-19 as cases continue surge across Missouri

By: - November 23, 2020 10:07 am

Captain Robert “Bobby” Rocha of the Kansas City Fire Department, who died Sunday of COVID-19. (Kansas City Fire Department photo)

A veteran Kansas City firefighter died Sunday morning of COVID-19 after battling the virus for weeks, the Kansas City Fire Department announced in a news release.

Capt. Robert “Bobby” Rocha was 60 and a firefighter for 29 years, the release stated.

“He was a vibrant and beloved part of the KCFD Family for 29 years,” Fire Chief Donna Lake said in the release. “His passing represents a personal loss to all of us who knew him. I cherish both his friendship and professionalism. KCFD first responders continue to put their lives on the line daily in service to our City as this pandemic rages on. My request to all is to follow the guidance to protect yourself and your family from this virus.”

The news of Rocha’s death came at a time when hospitals are reaching their maximum capacity to handle patients, with St. Louis leaders warning that the time is coming when they must decide who can and cannot be saved and hospitals in Springfield warning they are running out of room as cases continue to surge.

Rocha fought the disease for weeks, Mayor Quinton Lucas said in the release, and is the second Kansas City firefighter to die of COVID-19 in the line of duty.

“My condolences to the family of Fire Captain Bobby Rocha and to all the brave women and men of the Kansas City Fire Department,” Lucas said. “Captain Rocha honorably served Kansas City for years, touching an immeasurable number of lives with his heroism along the way.

The death comes as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly throughout Missouri. On Monday morning, the Department of Health and Senior Services reported 3,370 new infections after reporting a combined 9,091 on Saturday and Sunday.

There was at least one new case in 113 of 117 local health department jurisdictions reported Monday.

The state health department has reported 3,000 or more new cases for 19 consecutive days starting Nov. 5 after reporting 3,000 cases for just the first time on Oct. 29. So far in November, the agency has reported 91,711 COVID-19 infections, more than one-third of the 274,897 total cases found in the state since the first was reported in early March.

The seven-day average of reported new cases remains near its peak at 4,529 per day.

The state reported two additional deaths Monday, bringing the total for the pandemic to 3,561.

Hospitalizations are running at the peak of the pandemic, with 2,817 inpatients with COVID-19 as of Thursday, the most recent day with confirmed data. That is 1,185 more patients than were being treated for COVID-19 at the beginning of the month.

Hospitals are full and ‘the virus continues to spread like wildfire,” Dr. Alex Garza, the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said during a briefing Friday morning.

“We’ll have to make choices of who can’t be helped,” Garza said. “That’s a dilemma no health care workers want to face. How can we make ethical decisions about caring for the most people with what we have?”

In Springfield, hospital have added beds to care for COVID-19 patients but it may not be enough, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

“In the coming weeks, our numbers are expected to double,” Wanda Brown, a nurse at Mercy Hospital, told the News-Leader. “We are running out of room, not only for our COVID patients but our other patients as well.”

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.