According to health officials, the first coronavirus death recorded in California was an elderly person in Placer County, near Sacramento. The person had underlying health problems and likely had been exposed on a cruise ship voyage between San Francisco and Mexico last month.
It was the first coronavirus fatality in the United States outside of Washington state, where 10 people have died in a cluster of at least 39 infections that have emerged through community transmission of the virus in two Seattle-area counties.
Although the Placer County patient who died was not believed to have contracted the virus locally, that case and a previous one from the San Francisco Bay Area linked to the same ocean liner have led health authorities to seek other cruise passengers who may have had close contact with those two individuals.
Hours after the person’s death was announced, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency in response to the coronavirus, which he said has resulted in 53 cases across the nation’s most populous state.
“The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” Newsom said in a statement.
Newsom said the cruise ship, named the Grand Princess, had later sailed on to Hawaii and was returning to San Francisco, but would not be allowed into port until passengers had been tested for the virus.
“We are holding that ship off the coast,” Newsom said.