SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Health officials have confirmed that a new coronavirus case of unknown origin has been diagnosed in Solano County. An official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the diagnosis late Wednesday afternoon. The patient is receiving medical care at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, UC Davis officials said Wednesday night. The California Department of Public Health then confirmed the individual is a resident of Solano County.
UC Davis Medical Center said the patient was transferred there from another Northern California hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19. Upon arrival, the patient had already been intubated, was on a ventilator and was given droplet protection orders because of an “undiagnosed and suspected viral condition.”
The patient tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The patient wasn’t immediately tested for COVID-19 because the patient “did not fit the existing CDC criteria,” the UC Davis memo said. “UC Davis Health does not control the testing process,” it continued.
UC Davis infectious disease expert Dr. Dean Blumberg says that the testing for the virus is limited right now. “We’d like to have more widespread testing so we know where this virus is, who is sick and who is at risk,” said Dr. Blumberg.
This is the first case in the state not associated with the Diamond Princess cruise ship or with someone who had returned to Northern California from visiting China.
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The new case is also the first sign of the virus possibly spreading in a local community outside of cases that have been under quarantine. It’s the possible first case of person-to-person transmission of the novel virus in the country among the general public.
“There are probably other cases out there in the community that we don’t know about,” said Blumberg. He says this one patient getting sick means the disease may be spreading in the Bay Area.
“We have other cases that are currently circulating in the community and that anybody can get it,” says Dr. Blumberg.
“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown,” a press release from the CDC read. “It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.”
The CDC said the case “was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians.”
UC Davis says out of an abundance of caution, a handful of employees who cared for the patient will stay home to see if they get sick.
The new case brings the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States to 15.
California congressman John Garamendi, who represents the state’s District 3 that includes Sacramento County, said he’s aware of the patient being treated. “I am in close contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the State of California and will pass along any updates as they become available,” he said in a tweet.
“We all have the responsibility to protect ourselves and others by washing our hands and carrying out procedures to avoid infecting ourselves and others. Please monitor CDC’s website and Facebook for further information,” he added.
Wednesday afternoon, President Trump made a rare appearance in the White House briefing room to announce VP Mike Pence will lead the country’s cornonavirus task force.
“Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low,” the President said.
A Senior White House official tells CBS the President is taking over messaging to prevent the stock market from falling as concerns over the coronavirus outbreak have seriously impacted global markets over the past few days.
Since Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped more than 2,000 points. Dow futures fell 53 point, indicating a loss of 74 points that will kick off Thursday’s opening bell.
Health experts question whether downplaying the risk is the right approach to take with a virus that has spread so rapidly in other countries.
“Nobody here has been exposed to it. That means we are all susceptible to it. That means if you do get a significant exposure, we will get infected. There’s really not a question of that,” says Dr. Blumberg.
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Officials have started tracing the contacts the new coronavirus case has had to determine how the person might have been infected and who else may have been exposed.
A number of coronavirus patients have been receiving treatment under isolated conditions at greater Bay Area hospitals, but those patients had contracted the virus while on the Diamond Princess in Japan.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Sonoma County health officials confirmed one case of coronavirus was being treated at a county hospital after being transported from Travis AFB Monday night.
The patients, who were among the recent U.S. evacuees from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, were receiving care in Contra Costa due to a lack of space at facilities closer to the base that can properly isolate them to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
While the three patients have tested positive for COVID-19, they haven’t begun to show symptoms of the virus, such as fever and difficulty breathing. However, the CDC’s agreement with the Department of Defense requires any evacuee who tests positive to be moved from the base.
“Our county’s healthcare system is prepared to handle COVID-19,” said Contra Costa Health Services Dr. Chris Farnitano. “We have been working with our hospital partners to follow safety protocols to keep patients and healthcare workers safe and minimize the risk of the virus spreading in Contra Costa.”
The addition of the four new cases among Diamond Princess passengers evacuated to Travis raises the national case count to a total of 60.
Earlier Tuesday, CDC officials announced that COVID-19 was edging closer to becoming an official pandemic.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier with the CDC said it is not a matter of if, but when the new virus will spread in the U.S. and how many Americans will have severe illness.
The doctor said the U.S. needs to employ new strategies to blunt impact of disease and slow spread after global reports of additional cases occurring without any known source of exposure in Italy and South Korea.
However, the CDC believes the U.S. strategy currently in place has slowed the coronavirus entry and spread and that containment in the U.S. has been successful so far.