Local News

From the Archives: One year ago California declared emergency as Coronavirus spread

One year ago the Union-Tribune’s front page carried the news that California had declared a State of Emergency after the first coronavirus death in the state was reported. Within a day the first case of COVID-19 in San Diego was confirmed.

From The San Diego Union-Tribune, Thursday, March 5, 2020:

California emergency declared as virus spreads

State reports first death as symptoms swirl on cruise ship off coast


Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency as California confronted a deepening sense of crisis over the spread of the coronavirus Wednesday, when an older patient in the Sacramento area died from the virus and a cruise ship carrying 21 people with symptoms was held off the coast of San Francisco.

The person who died, in Placer County, was the 11th death linked to the virus in the United States and the first outside of Washington state. The patient had underlying health conditions and was most likely exposed to the virus last month during international travel that included a cruise to Mexico, officials said.

Eleven passengers and 10 crew members who are still on that ship, the Grand Princess, were showing symptoms Wednesday, Newsom said in an evening news conference. “That number may significantly understate” the scope of infection, he said, or “it may indeed be abundance of caution.” Public health officials prepared to screen everyone aboard the ship, which was not allowed to return to shore, Newsom said.

The Grand Princess is owned by Princess Cruises, the same company that runs the Diamond Princess, a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan last month.

Among the new California cases of coronavirus announced Wednesday were six in Los Angeles County: three people who had traveled together in Northern Italy; two relatives who had been in contact with a family member who previously tested positive; and a medical contractor for the Department of Homeland Security, whose job included screening passengers at Los Angeles International Airport.

Italy, meanwhile, closed all schools and universities and barred fans from all sporting events for the next few weeks, joining other governments around the world in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

With the virus present in more than 80 countries, Saudi Arabia barred citizens from making the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Iran canceled Friday prayers for a second week, and leader after leader pleaded with citizens to put an end to that traditional symbol of mutual trust, the handshake.

The Italian government decreed that soccer games and other sporting events will take place without spectators until at least April 3. Italy is is the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak. More than 3,000 have been infected and at least 107 have died, the most of any country outside China, where the illness began.

Italy also closed schools for 8.4 million students through March 15, after at least four other countries — Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Iraq — took similar action.