SONOMA COUNTY, CA — The first California resident to die from the new coronavirus and a Sonoma County resident being treated for the infectious disease were both exposed to the virus on a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. Both were on a Grand Princess voyage that left the Bay Area Feb. 11 and returned Feb. 21.
The person who died was an elderly Placer County resident who had underlying health conditions, officials said. After testing “presumptive positive” for COVID-19, the Northern California resident was being treated in isolation at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Roseville.
The Sonoma County resident was said to be in stable condition Monday and was being treated in isolation at a Sonoma County hospital after also testing “presumptive positive.” County health officials did not immediately respond to an email inquiry Wednesday about the status of the Sonoma County patient.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating “a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in Northern California connected to the Feb. 11-21 Grand Princess voyage,” Princess Cruises acknowledged Wednesday in a statement.
“We are working closely with our CDC partners and are following their recommendations,” Princess Cruises said in a health advisory to its current group of passengers who are on the same ship.
The Grand Princess is now on its way back to the Bay Area, and canceled a stop in Ensenada, Mexico that was scheduled for Thursday in order to arrive back in San Francisco by Thursday afternoon, Princess Cruise Lines said earlier Wednesday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, however, said in a news conference Wednesday evening the Grand Princess was asked to turn around from its second leg of the trip to Hawaii.
“That same ship set sail a few days later, to Hawaii, and is now making its way back to the city and county of San Francisco,” Newsom said. ” … We requested the arrival to be delayed so it is off the coast.”
The delay, Newsom said, is to give ample opportunity for the CDC, U.S. Coast Guard, and state health officials to administer tests.
“A number of passenger and crew members have developed symptoms,” Newsom said.
A state of emergency has been declared for the state of California, he said.
Test kits were being flown to the ship Wednesday evening, administered, and then flown back to a lab in Richmond. Within a few hours, the results should show whether the passengers tested have the flu or whether they have developed COVID-19, Newsom said.
Newsom confirmed the Placer County resident who died was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise that sailed from San Francisco to Mexico and arrived back in San Francisco Feb. 21 — and was not the only passenger to return home to California.
The governor confirmed the Sonoma County resident who also is believed to have contracted COVID-19 on the Grand Princess cruise to Mexico is “being monitored very closely,” but said he could not say more about the person’s condition except that it was “difficult.”
According to one estimate, Newsom said, some 2,500 passengers on the Grand Princess voyage to Mexico were believed to be from California. Efforts were underway Wednesday to contact the individuals on the ship’s manifest, the governor said.
Princess Cruise officials now say the “exact date and time for arrival” of the Grand Princess in San Francisco is “to be determined.”
“Please be assured that the health, safety, and well-being of all guests and crew are our absolute priority,” Princess Cruises said.
First CA Coronavirus Death Reported In Northern CaliforniaCoronavirus: First ‘Presumptive Positive’ Sonoma County Resident
As of Wednesday, there were 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California, the governor said. Twenty-four who were repatriated from overseas, and 29 who tested positive within the last week through community spread, Newsom said.
Another 9,400 people in 49 jurisdictions are being monitored for coronavirus symptoms after arriving on flights into Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports, according to the governor.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that include the common cold as well as much more serious diseases. The strain that emerged in China in late 2019, now called COVID-19, is related to others that have caused serious outbreaks in recent years, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was on Jan. 21.
The disease, which apparently originated in animals, is now transferring from person to person, although the mechanism is not yet fully understood. Its symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath, and many patients develop pneumonia. There is as yet no vaccine against COVID-19 it and no antiviral treatment.
According to the CDC, the best way of preventing the disease is to avoid close contact with people who are sick, to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and to use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.