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California Officials Announce 1st Coronavirus Death

Dr. Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Office, right, briefs the media on Coronavirus in San Gabriel, Calif., Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, as the outbreak reaches Southern California.
Associated Press
Dr. Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Office, right, briefs the media on Coronavirus in San Gabriel, Calif., Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, as the outbreak reaches Southern California.

An elderly person in Northern California who apparently contracted the new coronavirus on a cruise ship has died, becoming the first fatality in a state that added six more confirmed cases Wednesday, authorities announced.

The cruise ship is now under investigation as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention probe a “small cluster” of coronavirus patients who were aboard the ship, according to the cruise line. Another passenger who contracted the COVID-19 virus is a patient in Sonoma County.

Health officials believe both California patients were exposed while they were on the Grand Princess cruise from San Francisco to Mexico from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21.


The cruise ship is at sea but is expected to skip its next port and return to San Francisco by Thursday, according to a statement from Dr. Grant Tarling, the chief medical officer for the Carnival Corp., which operates the Grand Princess. Any current passengers who were also on the February trip will be screened. The CDC did not release any additional information.

RELATED: Coronavirus: 12 New Cases In Washington State; Los Angeles Declares Emergency

Across California, more than 50 people have tested positive for the virus, including several who got it through community transmission, according to the California Department of Public Health. More than 500 people have been tested for the virus.

The elderly patient had underlying health conditions and died in isolation at a hospital in Roseville, near Sacramento, according to Placer County health officials.

The person was not identified, with officials disclosing only that the person was a Placer County resident who tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.


Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild disease. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

In all, more than 94,000 people have contracted the virus worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, with more than 3,200 deaths. WHO reports that the COVID-19 virus is more fatal than the common flu.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement extended his condolences to the family of the California resident who died.

Earlier Wednesday, officials in Los Angeles County announced that six new cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed, up from one previously.

All of the Los Angeles County cases confirmed Tuesday night were due to a known exposure and not the result community transmission, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, told reporters.

One person was hospitalized and five others were in self-quarantine at home, she said. Officials have tested more than two dozen people for the virus since January and most tests came back negative.

Ferrer said Los Angeles County health officials expect more cases to be confirmed in the future and have increased the county's capacity to test at a local laboratory.

The cases were from throughout the county, she said, but did not provide specific locations.

The county's first case was in January and involved a person who lived in Wuhan, China. That person is no longer infectious.

Regarding the new cases, Ferrer said three of those who tested positive were travelers together in northern Italy, two were family members who had close contact with another family member who previously tested positive for the virus and the sixth patient had a job that exposed that person to travelers.

Officials in Los Angeles County and the city have signed proclamations of local emergencies to aid efforts to respond to the virus and free up resources. Authorities are also assisting shelters to prevent transmission of the virus in the homeless population.

“This is not a response rooted in panic,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.