SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Northern California patient, one of two local residents who fell ill with coronavirus after returning from a round-trip cruise between San Francisco and Mexico, has become the state’s first death from the illness.
Officals said the patient who died was a 71-year-old adult male Rocklin resident.
At an afternoon press conference, Dr. Christopher Braden, Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was “a cluster” of potential coronavirus patients on the cruise ship.
“There are a number of other people who have been identified with some type of symptoms that are undergoing testing now,” he said. “That information will be updated as we know more.”
“There is a cluster of illness associated with the cruise,” he added.
On Tuesday night, Placer County health officials announced the case involving an elderly adult, a day after Sonoma County health officials announced that a local resident had also come down with the illness after returning from the cruise.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of this patient,” said Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. “While we have expected more cases, this death is an unfortunate milestone in our efforts to fight this disease, and one that we never wanted to see.”
At an afternoon news conference Sisson said the male patient with underlying health conditions had “developed symptoms while on a Princess cruise.”
“This individual did develop symptoms on the cruise and was still symptomatic when they passed through the Port of San Francisco on their return trip.”
The patient tested presumptively positive on Tuesday at a California lab and was likely exposed during international travel from Feb. 11-21 on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico. The patient was in isolation at Kaiser Permanente Roseville.
“While most cases of COVID-19 exhibit mild or moderate symptoms, this tragic death underscores the urgent need for us to take extra steps to protect residents who are particularly vulnerable to developing more serious illness, including elderly persons and those with underlying health conditions,” Sisson said. “While we expected more COVID-19 cases and eventually deaths, this death in our second case is a sobering reminder that while the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 worldwide have been mild, older persons and persons with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of serious disease.”
Sisson said 10 medical workers at Kaiser Permanente and five ambulance personnel who had been exposed to the patient have been ordered to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Princess said it was canceling the Grand Princess was currently on a trip from San Francisco to Hawaii and back with a call in Ensenada, Mexico scheduled for Thursday; the ship was instead sailing directly to San Francisco and expected to arrive Thursday afternoon.
The cruise line said 62 passengers had made the Mexico cruise and then stayed on for the Hawaii trip.
“A total of 62 guests are in-transit, which means they sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained onboard for the current Hawaii voyage,” the cruise line said in a release. “In an abundance of caution, these guests and other potential close crew contacts have been asked to remain in their staterooms until screened by our onboard medical team.”
As the case appeared to be connected to travel, Placer County health officials said, it most likely does not represent an instance of local community spread. Still, county health officials have declared a local state of emergency.
“We expect to see additional cases in coming days, including cases of community spread, not linked to travel,” said Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson. “We are declaring these emergencies today so we will be able to activate and deploy resources to adequately respond to an increase in cases.”
Placer County officials did not say if the two patients knew each other or had contact with each other on the cruise.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said state health officials were trying to identify anyone who the elderly victim may have come into contact with.
“The state is working with federal officials to follow up on contact tracing of individuals that may have been exposed to provide treatment and protect public health,” he said. “This case demonstrates the need for continued local, state and federal partnership to identify and slow the spread of this virus. California is working around the clock to keep our communities safe, healthy and informed.”
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COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Sonoma County officials said their unidentified patient “has symptoms of the virus, and is currently in stable condition in an isolation room at a local hospital.”
“The patient, who recently returned from a cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico, has been in the county for 10 days,” the health department said in a release.
Tests conducted by the California Department of Public Health and in close coordination with the CDC, County and hospital officials led to the presumptive positive diagnosis.
Health and hospital officials were currently in the process of identifying individuals the patient has had contact with during the time they were in the community before being hospitalized.
Santa Rosa resident Suzi Schultz told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that she also was on the Grand Princess. She now wonders whether she has contracted coronavirus because she returned home sick.
The 59-year-old Schultz placed herself under a 14-day quarantine and told the paper she was feeling much better. She was concerned because she has yet to be contacted by the cruise line or county health officials.
“Why hasn’t anybody reached out sooner from the county or the cruise ship (company)?,” she told the paper. “I sit here befuddled by the situation.”
To respond to this most recent development, the County of Sonoma declared a local public health emergency as well as a local emergency to respond to COVID-19.
“This recent presumptive positive case of COVID-19 is a cause for concern, and the county is declaring these emergencies to activate and deploy its resources to adequately respond to an increase of cases,” said Health Officer Dr. Celeste Philip. “They will allow us to work in tandem with our cities and health care providers to ensure we are prepared to combat an outbreak of COVID-19 in our communities.”
The county was currently awaiting test kits for COVID-19 to be used at its public health lab to be more responsive when there are suspected cases,