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January 20, 2021

First coronavirus case confirmed in Santa Cruz County

SANTA CRUZ—Santa Cruz County Health officials on Saturday announced that the first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the county.

Officials are not releasing any information about the patient, except to say he or she is “resting comfortably” at home and does not require hospitalization.

Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel stressed that the virus was not contracted in the county. The patient was aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that made a trip from San Francisco to Mexico and back last month. 

County officials could not say if the patient contracted the virus in Mexico or while he or she was on the ship.

“This is a travel-related case, and not a case of community spread,” Newel said. 

Still, public health officials expect coronavirus cases to increase nationwide, and warned that it is inevitable that it will be community-spread.

“It’s important for communities, families and individuals to prepare for the possibility of events being cancelled and schools being out,” said Santa Cruz County Department of Public Health Director Mimi Hall.

It is therefore essential that everyone take precautions to protect themselves, including frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes with sleeves and staying home if sick.

“We are taking this situation very seriously, and taking all steps necessary to protect the health and safety of Santa Cruz County residents and visitors,” Newel said. “While COVID-19 represents a serious public health threat, the risk to Santa Cruz County residents and visitors remains low.”

The patient was a passenger on the cruise ship that recently returned to San Francisco on Feb. 21 after a 10-day cruise.

The individual has been resting at home since returning directly from the port in San Francisco with a private driver, Newel said.

After docking in San Francisco on Feb. 21, the ship sailed to Hawaii for a week and was headed to Ensenada, Mexico before being rerouted back to the Bay Area Wednesday.

Several other people from the cruise ship’s first San Francisco to Mexico voyage live in Santa Cruz County. Those people are under self-quarantine and are being monitored daily. None have symptoms of the virus, Newel said.

The ship currently has 10 crew members and 11 passengers with possible symptoms, and remained at sea off the coast of California as of Friday as federal health officials flew in test kits.

Newell declared a local health emergency on Wednesday, and the county activated its emergency operations center to bolster response efforts.

Also known as COVID-19, coronavirus can cause symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

Newel said that the majority of cases are likely to be mild.

Anyone with those symptoms, or who has contact with someone with COVID-19, or who has recently traveled to a country with outbreaks of the virus, should contact a healthcare provider.


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