Californians on Grand Princess cruise last month may have been exposed to coronavirus

A count of coronavirus cases worldwide displayed at the California Department of Public Health.
A count of coronavirus cases worldwide displayed at the California Department of Public Health.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The California man who died of coronavirus was on a cruise ship in February filled with other residents of the state, and officials are trying to determine whether any other passengers became ill when they returned home.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said local health officials will now be reaching out to determine whether other passengers have contracted the virus.

By one estimate, more than 50% of the roughly 2,500 passengers who traveled from San Francisco to Mexico and back on the cruise ship are Californians, Newsom said. Some, including the man who died, were on a tour.

Newsom said he felt confident that the state could contain the spread of the virus by passengers of the cruise who had already returned to California.

“We have the resources,” Newsom said. “We have the capacity. By this evening, we will have contacted every county health official that has someone who came off this cruise. They will have their contact information and begin a process to contact those individuals.”


The first Californian to die from the coronavirus was an elderly man with multiple underlying medical conditions, officials said Wednesday. The man’s name was not released.

There have been more than 50 coronavirus cases in California. Some people got the virus through “community spread” not connected to foreign travel.

Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said the man who died first developed symptoms while on a Princess cruise from San Francisco to Mexico that returned Feb. 21.

Princess Cruises said it was notified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they are investigating a small cluster of cases in Northern California among guests who sailed on the Grand Princess Mexican voyage.

The company said that 62 guests who sailed during the Mexico voyage remained on board for a current trip to Hawaii. In an abundance of caution, these guests and other possible close crew contacts have been asked to remain in their staterooms until screened by the ship’s medical team. That cruise has been cut short and will return early to San Francisco.

So far, Sisson said, health officers have determined that the man who died had minimal contact in the community since returning from the cruise.

Ten healthcare workers at Kaiser and five emergency responders who came in contact with the man are being quarantined, Sisson said. Those 15 people in quarantine do not pose a threat to those they came in contact with during the days before they knew of their exposure because they were not showing symptoms, Sisson said.

Rocklin, Calif., Fire Chief Bill Hack said emergency responders are wearing protective masks and goggles when responding to 911 calls until it is clear whether a person has respiratory symptoms that could indicate COVID-19.

Three of the five emergency responders who have been quarantined related to the Placer County death are Rocklin firefighters.


Newsom said the Princess cruise ship that the Placer County resident had traveled on was expected to return from Hawaii to San Francisco today. The state delayed the ship’s arrival, Newsom said, because several passengers and staff aboard the ship have exhibited coronavirus symptoms. California is sending testing kits and preparing to adequately handle the passengers when they arrive.