California Governor Newsom declares state of emergency after first coronavirus-related death

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon just hours after the state confirmed its first death due to coronavirus.

Newsom said at a press conference at the state's Capitol that there are currently 53 confirmed cases of the virus in California and health officials are monitoring 9,400 residents. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported there are a total of 29 cases, although its figures aren't always up to date.)

“The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” Newsom said. “This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly.”

The first death from the COVID-19 coronavirus has been reported in California, upping the death toll in the US to 11. The victim was an elderly person who got exposed to the virus on a cruise ship.

Health officials in Placer County, northeast of the state capital of Sacramento, said the victim was the second person in the county to test positive for the virus, and had other health problems that contributed to the death.

“While most cases of COVID-19 exhibit mild or moderate symptoms, 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,” said Dr. Aimee Sisson.

Officials said the victim was most likely exposed to the virus during a trip from San Francisco to Mexico in mid-February, on board a Princess cruise ship.

Earlier in the day, the cruise line sent out an email to all the passengers on the February 11-21 cruise, notifying them that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was investigating a “small cluster” of COVID-19 cases on board the Grand Princess.

This is the first US death from the novel coronavirus outside of Washington state, where a cluster of almost 40 cases originated in a nursing home for the elderly in Kirkland, outside of Seattle. Prior to the discovery of those cases, the only documented coronavirus infections in the US were among Americans repatriated from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship that had been quarantined in Japan – as well as a handful of individuals who had been in contact with travelers to Wuhan, the origin point of the infection in China’s Hubei province.

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