The state’s first death from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and a new quarantine of a California-based cruise ship prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in response to the virus Wednesday.
The Grand Princess ship sailed from San Francisco to Mexico in February. The Placer County resident who died from the virus Wednesday was on that voyage. Around half the passengers, about 2,500 people, were Californians.
After returning from Mexico, the ship sailed to Hawaii and was due to dock in San Francisco Wednesday night.
But now, Newsom says the ship is being held offshore until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can test people on board. An estimated 21 passengers and crew members aboard the ship are reporting respiratory symptoms.
“It is a dynamic situation as it relates to the cruise ship, but nothing that should be alarming. Appropriate protocols are in place,” Newsom said. “The ship will not come onshore until we appropriately assess the passengers.”
California has reported one death and 53 cases of COVID-19. The state is monitoring an additional 9,400 individuals who either traveled to affected areas or had close contact with someone who did.
After complaining of too few test kits and limited ability for local testing last week, Newsom said the state now has “broad” ability to test for the virus. That includes more than 5,900 new tests, which can be run at 14 labs around the state. The governor expects that number to grow to 20 labs in the coming days.
While Newsom said the state is well equipped to handle the virus, the state of emergency will unlock additional resources and funding to help contain the disease.
“This is no longer isolated in just one part of our state. This is broadly shared as a burden and responsibility up and down the state,” Newsom said.
Public health officials repeated that the risk of the virus remains low to the general public, but some communities may see higher risk.
“This is a quickly evolving situation and just as infectious diseases move across different populations at different rates, that indeed is also happening here,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell.
Officials urge anyone experiencing respiratory symptoms to call their doctor and public health department and to avoid going to the emergency room.
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