California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press conference Wednesday that test kits for COVID-19 were being flown to the Grand Princess off the coast of San Francisco

By Ashley Boucher
March 04, 2020 09:27 PM
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The man who died in Placer County, California, Wednesday from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) traveled on a cruise ship last month — and that ship is now heading for arrival in San Francisco with passengers exhibiting symptoms on board.

During a press conference on Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that the Centers for Disease Control and the California Coast Guard are working together to get test kits for COVID-19 to the ship. It will not be able to head to port until passengers and crew are tested.

“The ship is currently off the coast,” Newsom said, explaining that the ship’s arrival was being delayed “to provide ample opportunity” for the CDC, Coast Guard and state health officials “to conduct tests. Because we have a number of passengers and crew members that have developed symptoms on this cruise.”

The ship, the Grand Princess, had been sailing back to the continental U.S. from Hawaii, Newsom said.

“We are going to be flying testing kits to the cruise ship, and we are going to be flying those quickly back to the state, primarily to Richmond Lab where we will be able to test very quickly those samples to determine if individuals that are symptomatic just have the traditional cold or flu, or may have contracted the COVID-19 virus.”

Grand Princess Cruise Ship
Photosport/Shutterstock

“We also will expand the testing protocols to even more passengers, as there are a number of passengers that held over from the Mexico trip and made their way onto the second cruise into Hawaii,” the governor added.

The man who died in Placer County — described as “an elderly adult with underlying health conditions” in a county news release — marked the eleventh death in the U.S., and the first in the country outside of Washington State.

He is believed to have contracted COVID-19 while he was traveling aboard the Grand Princess from February 11 to 21 between San Francisco and Mexico, the release said. He had been isolated at Kaiser Permanente Roseville, and “had minimal community exposure between returning from the cruise and arriving at the hospital by ambulance on Feb. 27.”

The Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers and the five emergency responders who came in contact with the patient are currently being quarantined and have not exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.

However, it is possible that other cruise passengers were exposed. An estimated 2,500 passengers on that trip live in California, Newsom said at his press conference, and officials across the state are working to contact all of them.

On Wednesday, Princess Cruise Lines sent a health advisory letter to guests and crew currently sailing onboard Grand Princess, alerting them to the fact that the CDC is “investigating a small cluster” of COVID-19 cases in Northern California and asking guests who also sailed on that voyage to remain in their stateroom until they have been contacted and cleared by medical staff.

Gavin Newsom
Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Shutterstock

The letter said the measures were being taken in an “abundance of caution.”

The Grand Princess is from the same cruise ship line but not to be confused with the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan for several weeks after COVID-19 spread among the passengers. A reported six people have died from the Diamond Princess outbreak.

Newsom declared California in a state of emergency on Wednesday after the first death in the state was reported.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, coughing into your elbow or a tissue and avoiding contact with anyone suffering from respiratory illness.