A Grand Princess cruise ship passenger has tested presumptive positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) according to a Ventura County Public Health Department statement released Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to confirm the test.
The new positive patient traveled from San Francisco to Mexico on the Grand Princess and returned to San Francisco on Feb. 21.
On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency after a 71-year-old California man died after contracting the virus while on the same Grand Princess cruise.
“Once Princess Cruises learned of the passenger’s death, they began notifications to passengers. The California Department of Public Health notified Ventura County Public Health on March 4, 2020, at 7:40 p.m. that there were six Ventura County residents that had traveled on the cruise,” the Ventura County report read.
The patient’s primary care doctor requested they be tested for COVID-19 and the Ventura County Public Health Lab confirmed preliminary positive results on Thursday.
“There is no evidence of community transmission in Ventura County. This is a travel-related case. We appreciate our lab and nurses for quickly responding. Their swift action helped limit community exposure,” said Ventura County Public Health Officer, Dr. Robert Levin. “We understand the concern this new virus is causing. The risk to the public from COVID-19 remains low. Community members are encouraged to take the same steps they would take to help prevent colds and the flu. Preparing for social distancing is still recommended.”
According to the California Department of Public Health, there are 60 positive COVID-19 cases in California: 24 travel-related cases and 19 other cases.
Santa Barbara County officials say there are 164 total cases in the United States as of Friday.
The Grand Princess is currently scheduled to depart San Francisco on March 22 and stop in Santa Barbara on March 24. Santa Barbara County officials say passengers will likely be allowed to disembark the ship into Santa Barbara unless the CDC reports a COVID-19 case is on the ship.
Santa Barbara County Deputy Director for Community Health Paige Batson said the Public Health Department is consulting county counsel to determine the scope of Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg’s authority to prevent Grand Princess passengers from coming ashore.
“We have to determine if there are grounds to do that and if it’s reasonable,” said Ms. Batson.
“We understand people are concerned. But (Grand Princess) has an extensive medical team. If there are no cases developing on the ship, it’s less likely one will develop here.”
She explained that county officials are not in direct contact with Grand Princess, all passenger testing and necessary treatment will be handled by ship staff in coordination with the CDC.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. According to the CDC, the virus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Coronavirus symptoms are like the flu. They include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
The city of Austin has cancelled 2020 South by Southwest tech, music, and film festival because of COVID-19.
“‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation,” read a festival news release.
During a Friday morning press briefing, Dr. Ansorg said two people in Santa Barbara County were tested for COVID-19. Neither tested positive.