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First Bay Area coronavirus death: A woman in her 60s from Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose on Feb. 28, 2020.
Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose on Feb. 28, 2020.
(Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Santa Clara County on Monday announced its first death related to the coronavirus as the outbreak continued to spread.

The patient who died was a woman in her 60s and had been hospitalized for several weeks.

“She was the first person in the county confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 without any known history of international travel or contact with a traveler or infected person, suggesting she contracted COVID-19 in our community,” the county said in a statement. “The patient died at El Camino Hospital on the morning of March 9, 2020. The Public Health Department expresses its sincere condolences to her family and friends.”

Santa Clara County has the most reported cases in the state, now totaling 24.

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“This is a tragic development. The Public Health Department is taking necessary, carefully considered steps to slow down the spread of the disease and to protect those at greatest risk,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County, in a statement. “We are facing a historic public health challenge and know this is a very difficult time. Our top priority continues to be protecting the health of our community.”

Last week, county health officials issued more stringent recommendations meant to slow the spread of the virus, calling on residents to postpone large gatherings and events. Employers should take steps to minimize large group meetings, consider allowing employees to telecommute and stagger work start and end times.

Health officials aren’t recommending that schools be shuttered but said they’ll consider such closures on a case-by-case basis if a school employee or student is confirmed to have the coronavirus.

In neighboring San Mateo County, health officer Dr. Scott Morrow said in a statement Thursday that COVID-19 “has likely been spreading for weeks, perhaps months.”

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“We now all need to take assertive actions to inhibit the spread of this new virus,” Morrow said.

Among other steps, Morrow recommends that people stop shaking hands, use a barrier such as a paper towel or tissue to touch door handles, elevator buttons and other commonly touched surfaces, and “under all circumstances, stop touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth with your unwashed hands.”

Echoing Santa Clara County officials, he said residents should cancel or postpone nonessential gatherings.


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