A helicopter carrying Pararescue jumpers with the California National Guard 129th Rescue Wings deliver Covid-19 test kits to the Grand Princess cruise line off the coast of California on March 5, 2020. The Grand Princess is being held offshore near San Francisco due to coronavirus concerns onboard. (California National Guard/Zuma Press/TNS)

21 people test positive for COVID-19 on cruise ship off California coast

Twenty-one passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California tested positive for the new coronavirus, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

Forty-six people on the cruise ship, which had ended its 15-day voyage early after concerns of a possible COVID-19 outbreak from a previous trip, were swabbed for the virus. Of the 21 positive cases, 19 are crew members and two are passengers, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Friday.

Officials plan to bring the ship to a “non-commercial port” to dock this weekend, where the rest of the nearly 2,500 passengers and more than 1,000 crew members will be tested.

“We are instituting the strongest testing protocols to ensure that not only those on board receive the treatment that they need, but that the American people can be confident that there will be no erosion in our preventative measures and efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading throughout our country,” Pence said.

Princess Cruises announced Thursday that the CDC is investigating a “small cluster” of COVID-19 cases that are “connected” to a 10-day roundtrip voyage the ship made in February from San Francisco to Mexico.

The news comes the same day public health officials in Placer County announced that three more residents who had traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship on that Feb. 11-21 voyage were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Contra Costa County officials announced the diagnosis of three additional patients with the coronavirus late Friday morning, two of whom were also passengers on Mexico trip Grand Princess last month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The third patient had known contact with a coronavirus patient in a different county, according to KRON 4.

The first death in California tied to the virus was a patient who had been on board the Grand Princess ship for that Mexico trip.

A total of 62 passengers who were aboard the cruise ship for that Mexico trip remained on board for the 15-day roundtrip voyage to Hawaii. Those passengers and a few dozen crew members who came in close contact with them were instructed to self-isolate in their cabins Wednesday.

The next day, all passengers on board were reportedly told via announcement from the ship’s captain to stay in their cabins, with all meals set to be distributed by room service.

Among those holed up on the ship near San Francisco: Two passengers from Modesto who shared their story with the Modesto Bee on Thursday.

Asked why so many of crew members tested positive, Pence said, “we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” and that it was likely crew members were more exposed during the two different outings.

Newsom and cruise officials say the ship will not dock in San Francisco until it has been cleared to do so, but the timeline for how long that may take remains unclear.

There are 69 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1 reported death in California as of Friday. In the Sacramento region, there have been 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Sacramento region, including some individuals who have recovered or are in home isolation — Four in Sacramento County, five in Placer County and one in Yolo County.

Trump talks about cruise ship, emergency funds

At a White House signing ceremony for $8.3 billion in emergency funds to combat the coronavirus, President Donald Trump told reporters that he had spoken with California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, regarding the cruise ship off the coast, and said that a decision would soon have to be made on whether it should dock.

“We have big news on the ship,” Trump told reporters. “A lot of things are happening on the ship. People are being tested right now and I just spoke to the governor of California, Gavin Newsom — we had a good conversation, we’re both working on the ship together.”

“You have a ship with a lot of Americans on it, it’s 5,000 people on it, it’s a massive ship and they want to come in,” Trump continued. “So we have to make a decision.”

Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, who is part of a coronavirus task force organized by the president, said that California and Washington state had received all the tests “that they’ve asked for” and were “completely on schedule.”

Trump said his border policies should be credited for what he called a relatively low death rate.

“In terms of deaths, I don’t know what the count is today, is it 11? Eleven people and in terms of cases, it’s very, very few,” Trump said. “When you look at other countries it’s a very tiny fraction because we’ve been very strong at the borders.”

The U.S. death total had been at 12 but rose to 15 early Friday morning, with 14 now reported dead in Washington state and one confirmed death in California.

What’s life like on the Grand Princess?

Current Grand Princess passengers Gregory and Cathy Rafanelli of Seattle, ages 73 and 67 respectively, said their only screening test to get on board was form the couple was asked to fill out, vouching that they felt well and had not visited the countries on the restricted list, which included China, South Korea and parts of Italy.

“We had to fill out a sheet saying we didn’t have symptoms of coronavirus,” Gregory Rafanelli said. “We had to self-certify that we weren’t symptomatic. It was totally up to our honesty to report it.”

The couple said the cruise was uneventful until they received a letter from Princess Cruises under their door Thursday advising that the ship was returning to California instead of visiting Mexico. Now, the couple is confined to their cabin. Still, their biggest concern is not being able to play cards with their friends on the cruise.

“We have a fully functioning bathroom, which is much better than some of the power outages that have happened on cruise ships in the past,” Gregory said. “95 percent of the population of the world would love to have our living situation right now.”

Placer County cases grow

Three more residents who had traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship from San Francisco to Mexico Feb. 11-21 have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Placer County, officials reported Friday.

That brings the county’s total up to five, including the 71-year-old Rocklin resident who died this week and who was also believed to have been exposed as a passenger on the Grand Princess’ voyage to Mexico. The fifth was an employee who caught the virus after being exposed to patient at a Vacaville hospital last month.

It also adds to a growing total of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus associated with the cruise ship which remains sequestered off the California coast on Friday.

With reports by local health officials at the start of Thursday mentioning just three patients — the deceased Placer County resident plus two who were hospitalized in Sonoma County — there are now at least nine confirmed or presumptive positive cases: four total in Placer County, two in Contra Costa County, two in Sonoma County and one in Washoe County, Nevada, near Reno.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to limit the spread of disease,” Placer County Public Health Officer Aimee Sisson said Friday. “To be frank, we would not be surprised to see a second wave of cases connected to these cruise passengers given the amount of time that’s passed since they disembarked.”

The Grand Princess cruise ship traveled from San Francisco to Mexico and back with about 2,500 passengers on board, now remains in limbo off the California coast. The ship returned early from a voyage to Hawaii after it emerged that two passengers who disembarked in San Francisco on Feb. 21 had tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus.

Placer County said it’s in the initial stages of its investigations and is trying to identify and isolate as many of them as possible. On Wednesday, Sisson said, the cruise ship company provided the county a list of passengers from that area, and all of them have been told to isolate themselves at home.

Two of the three Placer individuals confirmed positive on Friday had mild symptoms that went away, and the third is currently having mild symptoms, she said. All three are residents of either south or “mid” Placer County.

Yolo County reports first case, community spread

Public health officials on Friday morning confirmed the first case in Yolo County, in an “older female with underlying health conditions.”

“From initial interviews, she acquired the disease through community transmission,” the county said in a news release.

The patient is hospitalized and improving, according to the news release.

“Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world, I am not surprised that the virus is in our county,” Dr. Ron Chapman, Yolo County’s public health officer, said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation driving fear in our communities. We will continue to provide COVID-19 education, support, and advice to the community while using appropriate measures to protect the public’s health.”

Chapman wouldn’t say where the woman is from, when she was hospitalized, or which hospital she was being treated at, but said the patient had started displaying symptoms about 10 days ago.

“Once the person was hospitalized then the decision was made to test for a variety of infections,” he said during a Friday news conference. “You typically test for the flu and other types of infections, and if those are all negative and you don’t know what’s causing it then you’ll test for something like coronavirus — and that’s when we found out about the infection.”

“At this point we don’t know how it was picked up in the community,” he added.

Family members of this patient are now under quarantine and the public health department says its working to find how many people may have “close exposure” and for how long.

Sacramento declares public health emergency

Sacramento County on Thursday became one of the latest California counties to declare public health and local emergencies in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, as cases of the virus continue to mount throughout the state.

The county has so far reported three confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with one of those patients having recovered. County Supervisor Phil Serna said the proclamation “should not be considered a reason for elevated concern,” but is an assurance that county public health officials will receive funding and resources to respond to the disease.

The local emergency came a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a statewide emergency, and as the coronavirus situation continues to develop rapidly in the Bay Area. San Francisco on Thursday morning confirmed its first two cases coronavirus cases, which are believed to have been spread in the community, almost simultaneous with the delivery via California National Guard helicopter of test kits onto a cruise ship where at least 21 people have shown symptoms.

Placer County quarantines

Placer County officials on Friday said there are a number of areas of the county where quarantines are in place — apparently areas where someone has been in contact with a county resident who died this week from the coronavirus, the first in California.

County officials declined to say where the quarantines have been imposed or whether they involve more than single households. Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies, Rocklin Police officers and Placer County health officials were out Thursday night “enforcing” county health officers’ orders.

Officials said they are declining to divulge more information, under health care law, to maintain patient confidentiality.

A Rocklin street quiet and undisturbed Friday morning, giving no visible sign of worry after a house on the block was placed a county quarantine order Thursday.

A tree crew was hard at work, cutting down limbs from a blossoming tree at the top of the street. A woman was seen pushing her young grandson in a stroller around the corner, and an Amazon delivery driver passed through the neighborhood, dropping off parcels.

There are no obvious signs of quarantine on the block of homes, many with well-manicured yards. There are no placards or tape to indicate that any house is besieged with the novel coronavirus.

A man who has lived on the street since 1991, and who did not want to give his name, said police were circling the block after dark Thursday but did not knock on his door or any of his neighbors doors. He said no one on the street were given any information regarding the quarantine.

Rocklin PD Lt. Scott Horrillo said police were called out Thursday night with health department officials to contact an individual on a residential block, but there was no quarantine issued for any neighborhood. “We were there last night just essentially making sure things were safe,” Horrillo said, referring questions to health officials.

Officials said the person who died, a 71-year-old man with underlying health conditions, likely contracted the illness on last month’s Grand Princess voyage from San Francisco to Mexico.

Three Rocklin Fire Department employees are in quarantine after exposure to the man, city officials said, responding to a Feb. 27 call. Placer County Public Health officials are monitoring the trio, and say they have not exhibited symptoms.

Suspected coronavirus case in Butte County

There is one suspected case of coronavirus in Butte County, public health officials announced Friday, prompting the county to declare a local emergency even though there has been no confirmed cases of infection.

The suspected COVID-19 case is a person who is sick, has been clinically evaluated and has been determined to need COVID-19 testing, public health officials stated.

Officials said they were declaring the emergency to be proactive, which allows the county to speed up its planning and response to potential COVID-19 cases.

The risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low in Butte County, but public health officials asked residents to plan for the possibility of local cases and the potential for community spread.

Butte County residents who believe they have COVID-19 and have developed a fever, cough and shortness of breath are asked by public health officials to notify their healthcare provider by phone to be safely evaluated and prevent exposing others.

Cruise passenger dies after medical emergency in Sunnyvale

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety announced Thursday that first responders performed CPR on a man who may have been exposed to the coronavirus while aboard a cruise ship. The man died, authorities said.

“Our officers performed CPR on a 72-year-old patient who was unconscious and not breathing,” the department said in a tweet. “Unfortunately, the patient didn’t survive.”

The department tweeted that the patient was recently on a cruise from which two patients had tested positive for the coronavirus, presumably the Grand Princess, but it was not known whether the 72-year-old himself had shown symptoms of the virus.

Seven public safety officers — five police and two fire personnel — responded, with some performing CPR, but no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was performed, Chief Phan Ngo said in a news conference Thursday.

All seven have been placed in self-isolation until autopsy results are available, Ngo said.

The CDC and the state Department of Public Health are awaiting test results before considering this a COVID-19 fatality.

Californians stocking up on supplies

Camping and survivalist retailers described a mad rush of shoppers cleaning out their inventories of packaged foods and provisions, preparing for the scenario of a two-week quarantine.

Denis Korn, who runs a mail-order “shelf stable” food company from Nevada City, told The Sacramento Bee this week that the coronavirus has prompted perhaps more fear than the infamous Y2K crisis in 1999, in which many people worried that the turn of the century would bring widespread computer glitches, collapsing society.

“It’s as intense as I’ve seen it in all these years,” said Korn, owner of PrepareDirect.com. “It’s just skyrocketed.”

Korn spoke of customers ordering 25- and 50-pound shipments of rice or powdered eggs. Stories have circulated about a customer at the Winco Foods grocery store in Elk Grove buying $700 worth of Spam, and cashiers ringing up cart-fulls of hand sanitizer in bulk.

“We got wiped out of everything,” said Shawn Hostetter, president of Katadyn North America, which is headquartered in Rocklin. “We are building inventories like mad and getting raw materials like mad.”

Governor, insurance commissioner order free testing

The Newsom administration and California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Thursday issued orders to make coronavirus tests free for about 24 million Californians if their doctors decide the tests are medically necessary.

Commercial and Medi-Cal plans must waive co-pays and deductibles for necessary tests, the departments of Insurance and Managed Health Care said in a news release Thursday.

The directives do not apply to people who work at large companies and get their insurance through work under “self-insured” health plans, according to a news release from the department.

Nevada’s first 2 cases are in Las Vegas, Reno areas

Health officials disclosed Thursday one presumptive positive case of the coronavirus in a Reno-area resident who traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship and one case in the Las Vegas area.

Washoe County announced late Thursday in a statement that the patient is a man in his 50s who is currently in stable condition. That patient has a family member at Huffaker Elementary School in Reno, which was closed Friday “out of an abundance of caution,” the county said in a news release.

Earlier Thursday, the Southern Nevada Health District confirmed Nevada’s first COVID-19 case in a Clark County, also a man in his 50s, who was hospitalized as of that morning. The source of exposure in that case remains under investigation.

Where do California’s coronavirus numbers stand?

According to the state Department of Public Health website, there were 69 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1 reported death in California as of Friday. The total includes 24 patients who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise off of Japan.

A map maintained by Johns Hopkins University, though, showed a higher tally by Friday morning, of at least 51 confirmed cases in California, not including the two dozen repatriated patients.

Santa Clara County’s public health department on Thursday disclosed six new positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the county to a state-leading 24 cases. Los Angeles County has confirmed 11 cases so far.

Johns Hopkins’ map showed more than 230 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Friday morning. Public health officials have confirmed more than 70 of those cases in Washington state, where the death toll rose to 14 on Friday morning.

What are coronavirus symptoms? How does it spread?

Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.

Coronavirus is spread through contact between people within six feet of each other, especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The CDC says it’s possible to catch the disease COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

By Michael McGough, Cathie Anderson, and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento Bee’s Rosalio Ahumada, Sophia Bollag, Dale Kasler, Ryan Sabalow, Darrell Smith, Molly Sullivan, Wes Venteicher and Tony Bizjak; Miami Herald’s Taylor Dolven; and McClatchyDC’s Francesca Chambers and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.

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