Mayor London Breed on Thursday announced two patients have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in San Francisco. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)

First two patients diagnosed with novel coronavirus in San Francisco

Both cases are thought to have been caught within the community

Two San Francisco residents tested positive for novel coronavirus, the first known cases of the disease to appear in The City, officials announced Thursday.

It is not known how the patients contracted the virus at this time, according to Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health. Neither of them have a history of travel to places with confirmed coronavirus cases nor did they have any known contacts with those diagnosed with the disease, which is also known as COVID-19.

Mayor London Breed made the announcement during a press conference at City Hall where she was joined by Colfax and other city officials, including members of the Board of Supervisors.

“Today, we are announcing the first two cases of coronavirus in our city. They have been detected here in San Francisco,” Breed said. “The individuals are contained.”

The two patients are unrelated and being cared for in isolation at separate hospitals. One, a woman in her 40s, is in fair condition. Another, a man in his 90s with underlying health conditions, is in serious condition. Families have been notified and health officials are conducting an investigation into the patients’ histories and contacts.

No further details were provided about the patients, nor were the hospitals named in order to protect the patients privacy, city officials said. However, at least one of the patients is believed to be at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, according to sources at the hospital.

Colfax said the cases did not come as a surprise for health officials, given other recent reports of cases around the Bay Area.

He said that the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s lab conducted the tests on Wednesday and the results were reported to him Thursday morning. San Francisco began local testing for the virus on Monday. The patients were tested for the virus after exhibiting pneumonia-like symptoms, he said.

“These cases are like similar cases we are seeing in the region,” Colfax said. “They are indicative of community transmission of COVID-19.”

Tyrone Jue, an acting spokesperson for the department, told the San Francisco Examiner that they have about 1,200 kits to test patients for the virus from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “and expect to get more.”

“Each person needs two tests – so we currently can test about 600 people,” Jue said. “The limited number of kits provided by the CDC is why we are prioritizing tests for those most at risk for the illness, and those most likely to experience illness or death if they get COVID-19.”

He said the department’s lab is currently running tests seven days a week.

Breed declared a local emergency on Tuesday Feb. 25 to mobilize resources and staffing and initiate emergency planning and to allow for future reimbursements from state and federal governments for efforts to respond to the novel coronavirus. Gov. Gavin Newsom did the same at the state level Thursday.

The diagnoses come after a 71-year-old Placer County man died of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, the first to die from the illness in California, after disembarking in San Francisco from the Grand Princess cruise ship in February. It is believed the man contracted the virus when on the ship’s round trip voyage to Mexico, which lasted from Feb. 11-21. The ship later set sail for Hawaii.

Officials are working to locate other passengers who had left the ship after the voyage to Mexico and are currently holding the same Grand Princess ship off the coast while they screen passengers and decide where the ship may ultimately berth.

Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the Department of Emergency Management, said there were 2,383 passengers on board the ship and 1,100 crew members.

“Of that, a total of 35 have shown flu-like symptoms during the course of this 15-day cruise,” Carroll said. “Many of those people have recovered and are no longer showing flu-like symptoms.”

She said the CDC is testing passengers today and expect the results Friday.

“Once we have the results from the tests, the CDC and state will determine the most appropriate location for the ship to berth,” Carroll said, adding that “the CDC and the state are considering a number of locations including San Francisco.”

Breed vowed to provide regular updates on the spread of the virus, including the the status of the cruise ship.

Residents were advised to continue to employ preventive measures to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. People should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.

“Ensure that when you greet people do an elbow bump,” Colfax said. “Do not shake hands at this time.”

No one should come to work or go to school if they are sick and they should contact their health provider if necessary, he said. There is no on demand testing in the City at this time, but if patients meet certain criteria they will undergo testing.

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