FRANKTON — A Frankton man who died Wednesday is believed to be the first Madison County resident to succumb to COVID-19, according to Madison County Coroner Danielle Noone and officials with the Madison County Health Department.
Frederick D. Partlow, 78, who according to family members had other underlying health issues, also is the first person to die of complications of the novel coronavirus in Hamilton County, where he was hospitalized.
“Despite all the efforts of physicians and health care workers, we have experienced the loss of our first resident of Madison County,” said Dr. Stephen Wright, Madison County’s health officer. “This is our first and will not be our last.”
To date, four Madison County residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 epidemic is a respiratory illness characterized by fever, cough and belabored breathing cause by pneumonia that is believed to have started as early as late December in Wuhan, China, before making its way around the world, including the United States. The 1,000th known U.S. death from the coronavirus was recorded on Wednesday.
Wright warns Madison County residents to continue to cover their coughs, wash their hands, practice social distancing and limit nonessential travel.
Many people have responded to Partlow’s death by posting memories and condolences on Facebook.
Partlow was the husband of Marsha Kitchen’s aunt, Katheryn Partlow, who is in quarantine with one of her sons.
Also a resident of Frankton, Kitchen said she saw her uncle, a retired General Motors employee, every few weeks but more often since her father had a stroke in January.
“Fred was a great guy. Friendly. Lived for his family,” she said.
Partlow joined the U.S. Air Force in 1960, serving in the 55th Reconnaissance Wing Strategic Air Command and was stationed at Forbes Air Force Base in Kansas. He spoke of flying the Black Sea and once was escorted out of the area by four Russian migs.
Kitchen said her aunt called around March 17 to update her on Partlow’s health.
“They tested him right away. He had other health issues that, along with his age, put him in a high-risk category,” she said.
The Partlows were a social couple who enjoyed going out and had just celebrated their anniversary. That’s when Kitchen believes the father of five came into contact with the coronavirus.
Kitchen said she had hoped the new coronavirus would never come to her small town.
“When you live in a small town, you have a sense of security. Now that’s broken. I think of all the elderly people in town, and I’m concerned this could have a larger impact,” she said.
Working in what is considered an “essential” job, Kitchen is worried about her own exposure and that of her sons, one of whom is a first responder and the other is stationed in the military in South Korea. Another son just became a father and a fourth has a pregnant wife due in April.
“I worry about my aunt and her family. I’m worried about my dad who is in a rehab facility from his stroke,” she said.
President Donald Trump’s hope that people will be back to work by Easter is unrealistic, she said.
“I think it’s going to be four to six weeks before we’re over this – at least,” she said.
Kitchen said she believes Frankton town officials are doing the best they can to reduce the impact of the coronavirus to the community.
“People need to believe the seriousness and realize the only way to get over this mess is staying away from others.”