California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that 33 people in California have tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus, and officials are currently monitoring more than 8,400 people for the virus.
Newsom stated that 5 of the 33 patients who tested positive for the virus have left the state. Health officials said some of the 33 positive cases were part of the group of evacuated Diamond Princess cruise passengers who were repatriated back to the United States after spending weeks on the quarantined ship held off the coast of Japan.
Newsom said that 49 jurisdictions are monitoring “8,400-plus” people for the virus. “We knew this was inevitable” due to the contagious nature of the virus, he said.
As of Wednesday night, the United States had 60 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 42 of which were on the ship, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We are currently in deep partnership with CDC on one overriding protocol that drives our principal focus right now and that’s testing, and the importance to increase our testing protocols and to have point of contact diagnostic testing as our top priority not just in the state of California but I imagine all across the United States,” Newsom said during the press conference.
Thousands of people around the United States have been asked to self-quarantine as the CDC and state health officials monitor them.
California health officials have 200 testing kits and will be receiving more in the coming days, but the governor stressed that the number is “simply inadequate.” The CDC is now “moving expeditiously” on providing more testing kits, Newsom said.
California in late January received its first flight from people who were evacuated from virus-hit Wuhan, China. All 195 passengers were taken to the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, located in Southern California, before they were released earlier in February.
Evacuees were also taken in at the Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, located some 40 miles southwest of Sacramento, as well as the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
Dr. Sonia Y. Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, said that the risk to the general public remains low and attempted to downplay fears a day after U.S. health officials confirmed the first potential community transmission in Solano County.
“This is a fluid situation right now and I want to emphaize the risk to the American public remains low,” she said in the press conference. “There have been a limited number of confirmed cases to date.”
In a Wednesday night statement, the CDC said it isn’t sure how the new California patient contracted the virus, adding that the person had “no relevant travel history” before the case was detected.
“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown,” the federal agency said in a statement. “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.”
Meanwhile, state officials in New York are monitoring around 700 people who were asked to self-isolate. None of the individuals have displayed symptoms associated with the illness.
Health officials in Washington state, Oregon, Georgia, and Michigan have also confirmed they have asked hundreds of people to self-quarantine and be subjected to the CDC’s guidelines.
“Voluntary self-isolation will help limit the potential spread of this virus,” Jill Montag, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health, told reporters. Travelers who are under a voluntary quarantine are being monitored by health officials, who deliver their food and monitor them for possible symptoms such as respiratory issues, coughing, or a fever.