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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — Ethel Sylvester dialed 911, trembling with fear. The 92-year-old felt hot. She thought turning off her thermostat could fix the problem. That didn’t help.

Alone in her apartment, in the middle of the night, Sylvester didn’t know what was happening to her body. She feared it was COVID-19. Her neighbor and twin sister, Edna Mayes, had no idea her best friend was in trouble.

“I couldn’t get to the door,” said Sylvester, recounting last month’s incident. “I was shaking, just shaking.”

Paramedics rushed her to St. Louis University Hospital where the staff determined that Sylvester had “no signs” of COVID-19 but instead had a case of high

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