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TULSA, Okla. (KJRH) – Although health officials are releasing little information about the first victim who passed away due to COVID-19, longtime friends have identified him as a man heavily involved in a local church.

Pastor Don Martin, with Metro Pentecostal Church in Tulsa, told KJRH that the state’s first case of COVID-19 that resulted in death was 55-year-old Merle Dry.

Friends say Dry was in great health and was involved with the church.

“All we know is he had a cold, he didn’t even go into ER until Sunday because he was having trouble breathing,” Pastor Martin said. “And he wasn’t diagnosed with the virus until Tuesday, and he passed away the next day, this past Wednesday.”

Health officials say the patient tested positive for COVID-19 on March 17 and passed away on March 18.

Doctors say that most of the known patients contracted the virus after traveling to an area with known spread. However, they say the patient who died was the first case of community exposure.

“The virus is spreading within our community,” said Dr. Bruce Dart, Director of the Tulsa Health Department.

To express the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Dart explained that the victim’s family will not be able to have a funeral for him since they are all quarantined for 14 days.

Also, he says a funeral would be in violation of the 10 person or less rule for gatherings.

“This is serious and this is real and people have got to start listening to what we’re telling them,” he said.