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California health officials confirm second US case of unknown origin

A man wears a facemask while pushing his shopping cart in Alhambra, California on February 27, 2020.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

The Santa Clara Public Health Department confirmed Friday the nation’s second coronavirus patient with no relevant travel history or clear link to another infected person or at-risk group, indicating that the virus may be spreading undetected in local communities.

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, said in a statement Friday. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”

The new case brings the total number of coronavirus cases in California to 10 and the total number of cases in the U.S. to at least 63.

“We also don’t have any evidence to suggest this case is linked to any other case in California,” Cody told reporters at a press conference. There are two other cases in the county, the health department said. But this one is different because the patient, an elderly woman, doesn’t have a travel history or any known contact with a traveler or infected person.

Cody said local schools should plan for students calling out sick and “explore options for tele-learning and enhance surface cleaning.” She added that the department of public health started conducting a contact investigation after receiving the test results from the woman last night and has been working closely with the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re conducting a traditional contact investigation as we do for an infectious disease, which means tracing all the places that the person may have been while infectious,” Cody said. “We are especially concerned about people who might be a high risk contact, like if they were a household member for example,” Cody said.

U.S. health officials confirmed Wednesday the first suspected community transmission case in the U.S. — a resident of Solano County who’s receiving medical care in Sacramento County. A day prior, the city of San Francisco declared a local emergency to prepare for the spread of infections, although there had no recorded cases at the time.

U.S. California Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday that the state is currently monitoring more than 8,400 people for the coronavirus. He added that California health officials have 200 testing kits on hand and will be receiving more over the next few days.

A bulk of the 63 confirmed cases in the U.S. are people who were evacuated from Wuhan, China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan.

As of Friday, there have been 4,351 cases and 67 deaths across at least 48 countries outside China, where the outbreak began, WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a press conference.

— CNBC’s William Feuer contributed to this article.

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