California has seen its first death from coronavirus, officials have said, bringing the number of deaths in the United States from the virus to 11. This is the first US fatality outside Washington state.
The latest victim was elderly and had underlying health issues, Placer County Public Health said. Those that have been in close contact with the patient have been quarantined and will be closely monitored including 10 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers and five emergency responders.
It is likely that the deceased was exposed to the virus on a Princess cruise to Mexico that departed San Francisco on 11 February, returning on 21 February. The company has issued an advisory to passengers from that cruise, as well as passengers currently on the ship.
The patient was admitted to hospital less than a week after the cruise and had "minimal community exposure" according to county officials.
More passengers on the ship may have been exposed to the virus — another was reported in Sonoma County last week.
Placer County, northeast of Sacremento, Sonoma County and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention are working to identify others that may have been exposed.
Dr Aimee Sisson, Placer County Health Officer, said that while more cases were expected, the death market an unfortuante milestone in the efforts to fight the disease.
“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,” she added.
In a statement, Governor of California Gavin Newsom said: “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.”
“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.”
Earlier in the day, Los Angeles declared a state of emergency after six new cases were confirmed in 24 hours.
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