Georgia authorities said they found the body of mammogram technician Diedre Wilkes, 42, in her home

By Joelle Goldstein
March 25, 2020 03:27 PM
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Credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

The body of health care worker Diedre Wilkes was found inside her Georgia home several hours after she died of coronavirus, leaving her young child alone in the residence, according to authorities.

The 42-year-old woman — who worked as a mammogram technician at Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Newnan — was discovered by authorities in her Coweta County home on Thursday, Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk confirms to PEOPLE.

Police had been conducting a welfare check when they discovered her body, which they believe had been there for 12 to 16 hours, according to Hawk. Wilkes’ 4-year-old child was alone inside the residence when authorities arrived, Hawk says.

Though her child was likely exposed to the illness in some capacity, Hawk says it is unknown whether she has become ill. He tells PEOPLE the baby has since been placed in the custody of her father.

An initial COVID-19 test confirmed that Wilkes had tested positive for coronavirus, but her autopsy report is pending, Hawk adds.

It is unclear how Wilkes contracted the illness and she had no underlying conditions, according to the coroner.

A rep for Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Tuesday said the medical center was treating Wilkes’ cause of death as “inconclusive,” the Newnan Times-Herald reported.

“We were deeply saddened when the coroner notified us on Saturday afternoon of the sudden passing of our colleague,” the hospital says in a statement provided to PEOPLE. “Despite what has been reported in the media, we understand from the GBI forensic pathologist conducting the study that the results are still pending and it has not yet been determined whether the death was a result of COVID-19.”

“However, because we were told that an initial COVID-19 test performed after her death was positive, and because we know people can expose others before they show evidence of the disease, as a cautionary measure, we have contacted the employees and patients who may have had contact with this employee in the days leading up to the colleague’s last day at work,” the hospital adds. “Piedmont is providing these individuals with detailed information for self-monitoring and will offer COVID-19 testing to those who request it. This employee did not work in an area treating known or suspected COVID-19 patients. Our thoughts and prayers are with the employee’s family during this difficult time.”

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Also on Thursday, a 48-year-old woman who worked at Donalsonville Hospital — located near the border of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama — died of COVID-19, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The woman had recently tested positive for the virus and died at a hospital in Tallahassee, Florida, the outlet reported.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been at least 59,502 cases and 804 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In Georgia, at least 1,097 patients have tested positive for the virus, while 38 people have died.

Gov. Brian Kemp has since issued a shelter in place order, requiring people who are at risk to quarantine themselves and stay at home, according to NBC affiliate WXIA.

The order, which was announced on Monday, went into effect at noon on Tuesday and is expected to last until April 6 at the earliest, WXIA reported.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.