SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency Wednesday due to the threat of the new coronavirus, becoming third US state to do so. Newsom said the emergency declaration gives that state another tool in its toolbox.
“The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” said Governor Newsom. “This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly.”
The first U.S. coronavirus death outside of Washington state was reported in California on Wednesday.
A northern California resident in Placer County died from complications of COVID-19, according to health officials who described the person as an "elderly adult with underlying health conditions."
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Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said, “We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of this patient.”
Officials say the patient, a 71-year-old man, was probably exposed to coronavirus while on a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico sometime between Feb. 11 to Feb. 21. Newsom says "at least" half of the thousands of passengers are Californians, not counting crew members.
Then, more passengers boarded that same cruise ship for a trip to Hawai'i. That cruise was supposed to return to California on Wednesday evening, but that arrival is now delayed until further testing is done. Newsom said some of the current passengers are showing possible symptoms.
"There's a reason we didn't want that ship in the Port of San Francisco," said Newsom.
Over in San Diego, the Port of San Diego released this statement to News 8:
At this time, the Port of San Diego is not aware of any impacts on cruises that visit San Diego or cruise schedules with San Diego on the itinerary.
The Port of San Diego is working with cruise lines, ship agents, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Coast Guard Office of Emergency Management, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Coast Guard and CBP, with guidance from the CDC, are responsible for tracking cruise ship arrival. They have decision-making authority regarding vessel clearance, quarantine and other requirements.
Although port operations in San Diego are considered low risk in relation to the outbreak, precautionary procedures, along with our standing protocols regarding communicable diseases, are in place.
- Ship agents and cruise lines are required to notify the Coast Guard and CBP immediately if anyone aboard a vessel is exhibiting symptoms of communicable diseases like COVID-19.
- All inbound vessels must notify the Coast Guard and CBP 14 days ahead of their scheduled arrival in San Diego, even if no one on board is exhibiting symptoms. That’s up from a four-day Notice of Arrival requirement for inbound vessels.
Hornblower Cruises offered the following statement to News 8:
"The wellbeing of our guests and shipmates is of paramount importance. While there have been no reported cases of the virus in our operations, we are closely monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization's (WHO) statements regarding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases and following the guidelines from these agencies and the local health departments."
The Placer County patient was the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county and is now the first to die from the illness in California. That same cruise is associated with a coronavirus case in Sonoma County.
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Newsom also criticized the companies that are charging $17 or more for small bottles of hand sanitizer and medical supplies in general.
Shortly before California's first coronavirus death was announced, the Washington State Department of Health confirmed another person has died from the coronavirus in King County, Washington.
The two cases bring the number of deaths in the U.S. up to 11.
The House has easily passed an $8.3 billion measure to battle the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Newsom said the state also received nearly 6,000 test kits Wednesday morning for 14 different labs. The CDC, Coast Guard, and state officials will fly coronavirus test kits to the ship and test them in Richmond.
Newsom announced that more than 22 million Californians are now eligible for free COVID-19 testing. This includes Medi-Cal patients.
“This action will ensure that Californians who need a test will receive one at no cost,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. “This doesn’t mean every Californians should be seeking a test. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and may have had contact with a person with COVID-19 or recently traveled to countries with apparent community spread, call your health care provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care.”
The state also plans to broaden state operation centers.