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What we know about the first Californian to die from coronavirus

A video monitor inside the Medical Health and Coordination Center at the California Department of Public Health shows the number of Coronavirus COVID-19 cases around the world
A video monitor inside the Medical Health and Coordination Center at the California Department of Public Health shows the number of Coronavirus COVID-19 cases around the world.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The first Californian to die from the coronavirus was an elderly person with multiple underlying medical conditions, officials said Wednesday.

The person’s name was not released, but Placer County health officials did offer some details. There have been more than 50 coronavirus cases in California. Some people got the virus through “community spread” not connected to foreign travel.

But 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.

What do we know about his treatment?

The man continued to show symptoms while traveling through the Port of San Francisco. He called 9-1-1 and was transported by ambulance to a Kaiser Permanente in Roseville on Feb. 27. He was tested for COVID-19 on Sunday, with the results returned positive on Tuesday.

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The man died Wednesday morning, Sisson said.

“Placer County has been conducting intensive contact tracing to identify and contact healthcare workers and community members who were exposed to this individual within the Placer County community,” Sisson said.

Is there potential for spread in Placer County?

So far, Sisson said, health officers have determined that the person 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 individual 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 know of their exposure because they were not showing symptoms, Sisson said.

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Placer County has six pending tests for COVID-19 and Sisson said she expects to see cases of community transmission soon.

Sisson recommended that residents have two weeks of supplies on hand in case they are asked to quarantine.

Rocklin 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.

“They’re obviously being hypervigilant that if they start to become symptomatic they know what to look for and they know what steps to take,” Hack said. “They’re in good spirits at this point.” Placer County is requesting that any other individuals who were on the Princess cruise to Mexico to self-quarantine.

How about those on the cruise ship?

It’s possible that other cruise passengers may have been exposed, officials said. Placer County Public Health is working closely with Sacramento County Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify and contact other cruise passengers.

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 onboard 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.


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