As officials around the country urged local communities to think about ways to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading, California authorities said Wednesday that a person who died from Covid-19 had recently been on a cruise.
The patient, whose name wasn’t released, had underlying health conditions, and probably was exposed to the virus on a cruise from February 11 to 21 between San Francisco and Mexico, Placer County health officials said. Two other people have tested positive for coronavirus, according to other officials.
In a statement, Princess Cruises said it had been notified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that there was a “small cluster” of cases from that cruise. The man who died was 71, Princess said.
“All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the family and all who are impacted by this loss,” the company said.
A person from Sonoma County and another person who was on the cruise also have contracted the virus, officials said.
The ship involved, the Grand Princess, is in the Pacific after traveling to Hawaii, and cruisegoers on this voyage and the previous one received a health advisory Wednesday. Some people were passengers on both cruises, officials said.
“We have shared essential travel and health data with the CDC to facilitate their standard notification to the state and county health authorities to follow up with individuals who may have been exposed to people who became ill,” Princess Cruises wrote in the advisory.
The ship is skipping its last port of call in Mexico and will eventually go to San Francisco.
Workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Coast Guard and state health agencies are going onboard to conduct tests as there are 11 passengers and 10 crew members that have developed symptoms that need to be checked, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. The ship will be held at sea, he said.
It is carrying about 2,500 passengers, he said.
The governor declared a state of emergency, which allows for more money to be allocated for the state’s coronavirus response.
US death toll climbs
The US death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 Wednesday.
The California patient is the first in the United States to die of the disease outside Washington state. The other death was in King County in Washington state.
There are now at least 154 known coronavirus cases across 14 states, including 39 in Washington state and at least 33 in California.
“This tragic death underscores the urgent need for us to take extra steps to protect residents who are particularly vulnerable to developing more serious illness, including elderly persons and those with underlying health conditions,” Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said,.
Nine of Washington’s 10 deaths happened in King County, officials say. Six of the dead had ties to Life Care Center, a long-term nursing home in a Seattle suburb.
The nursing home’s outbreak and a series of new cases over the past few days in states including Florida, Georgia and Rhode Island “have heightened our concern for certain communities in the US,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Tuesday news conference.
“As more areas see community spread, local communities may start employing tools that encourage social distancing,” Messonnier said Tuesday. “The goal of social distancing is to limit exposure by reducing face-to-face contact and preventing spread among people in community settings.”
“What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad,” she said. “We will continue to maintain for as long as practical an aggressive national posture of containment.”
“That said, you might see some local communities taking specific actions to mitigate the disease,” she added.
Washington city upset motel being turned into isolation center
King County wants to spend $4 million to buy a two-story Econolodge motel in Kent to use as a isolation center, a move that has angered city leaders.
Mayor Dana Ralph said they are demanding that county officials not use the motel. She told reporters the county never contacted them and they learned of the development only through a third party.
“We are very concerned about the public health and safety implications this has for our community,” she said.
County Executive Dow Constantine announced the potential purchase as part of an announcement about using modular buildings for quarantine or isolation facilities.
Constantine said they hope to have the motel in use in a few days.
“This situation requires us to act with urgency,” he said. “We all need to be in this together.”
The mayor said city officials understand that everyone has a role to play but they have significant concerns and are upset about the initial lack of communication.
Ralph said she spoke with Constantine upon find out about the plan.
“A majority of our questions remain unanswered,” Ralph said.
The Econolodge was built in 1978 and has 84 rooms, according to King County online property records. It was most recently appraised for $5,552,900.
Any American with a doctor’s order can now be tested
The 158 coronavirus cases across the United States include both confirmed cases and presumptive positives: cases that tested positive in public health labs but are still awaiting confirmation from the CDC.
The number includes 46 repatriated citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship – which docked in Japan last month after an outbreak and quarantine – as well as three people repatriated from Wuhan, China.
Texas announced its first case, said there is one patient from Fort Bend County near Houston. The man, who is in his 70s, recently traveled abroad and is hospitalized.
The number of US cases has continued to rise since health officials allowed more labs to conduct tests for the virus.
The CDC said Tuesday, public health labs across the country using CDC test kits were expected to test up to 75,000 people by the end of the week. That’s on top of the nearly 1 million people expected to be tested through commercial labs that were approved for testing by the US Food and Drug Administration over the weekend.
Last week, health officials also loosened the guidelines on who should be tested for the virus. The change came after the first confirmed coronavirus case of unknown origin, a patient who wasn’t initially tested because they didn’t meet existing CDC testing guidelines.
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that any American, with a doctor’s order, can now be tested.
The new CDC criteria calls for “Americans (to) be tested (for coronavirus), no restrictions, subject to doctors’ orders,” Pence said Tuesday describing the new policy.
CNN’s Kay Jones, Andy Rose, Cheri Mossburg, Sarah Moon, Kerry Flynn, Kristina Sgueglia and Konstantin Toropin contributed to this report.