Coronavirus Cases in California Spike to 157

(CN) – Confirmed cases of coronavirus in California jumped 15% overnight and now total 157, Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

“That number will grow,” Newsom said. “There will be multiples of that as we continue to test.”

This undated photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. (CDC via AP)

The governor also gave an update to the methodical disembarkation of the Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland, criticized the federal government for its failure to provide more test kits and hit the four major sports leagues for prioritizing the health of their athletes over the public health implications of attending crowded games.

“The bottom line is we need more tests,” Newsom said in a long, wide-ranging conference. The governor said the test kits provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are just a component of the testing process, and the state is working furiously to establish greater capacity.

The state has its own kits and is working with academic institutions and private businesses like Quest Diagnostics to ramp up the ability to test.

California conducted 1,075 tests Tuesday but wants its private partners to be able to conduct at least 5,000 daily by March 24.

When asked if the Sacramento Kings – the capital city’s National Basketball Association team – should play a scheduled game in front of a live audience Wednesday night, Newsom said he would defer to local public health officials but is concerned leagues are failing to do enough to protect their fans.

“I found it curious that the four major sports leagues — NHL, Major League Soccer, the NBA and MLB — put out guidelines to protect their athletes but not their fans,” he said. “Why is it more important to keep reporters away from their players than keeping fans out of highly contagious areas?”

The four major sports leagues have all banned reporters from locker rooms but have taken no steps to limit fans from attending their games. In Italy, where the coronavirus is spreading unabated, officials have ceased allowing fans to attend Serie A soccer games. Officials have further said they are considering canceling the season.

Organizers of the annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Southern California announced Tuesday they would postpone the event scheduled for April 10 through April 19. It will be rescheduled for October.

And at least two Ninth Circuit panels said Tuesday the court is looking at letting attorneys appear by telephone or video so they don’t have to travel.

Finally, Newsom provided a detailed update about how the Grand Princess cruise ship disembarkation, where many people continue to languish on the ship as public officials meticulously process each passenger.

There were 3,400 individuals on the ship, and 21 people have already tested positive for the coronavirus. Those individuals and five others were immediately evacuated to medical facilities for more care.

The ongoing triage at the 11-acre quarantined site at the Port of Oakland prioritized the disembarkation of those with acute conditions and those particularly at risk from the coronavirus, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. Secondly, California residents left the ship and were conveyed by boat to Travis Air Force Base outside of Vacaville. Lastly, passengers from other states and foreign countries were evacuated and taken to other military installations or repatriated to their countries.

On Monday, 407 individuals were taken off the boat. On Tuesday, an additional 269 individuals had left the ship by 1 p.m., with further processing ongoing. Some of the passengers taken to hospitals but deemed to be non-acute cases are then taken to various hotels around Northern California.

Newsom also said he is talking to his legal team about the feasibility of banning all cruise ships from entering California ports, but said in the meantime the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions should not get on a cruise ship.

“That’s just common sense, it’s not hysteria,” Newsom said.

Newsom said he also met with 58 superintendents from school districts across the state to develop protocols for student safety and when to effect closures should they be necessary.

Los Angeles Unified, the largest school district in the state, is expected to formally declare a state of emergency on Tuesday night and has banned nonessential travel for its employees. Several private schools have closed for weeks and many universities including UCLA are canceling in-person classes and pivoting to an online format.

San Diego County health officials said Tuesday the region is once again receiving hundreds of people to be quarantined at MCAS Miramar due to possible exposure to coronavirus on the Grand Princess cruise ship.

Up to 400 cruise ship passengers are expected to be flown to San Diego by Wednesday evening where they will be quarantined, a similar scenario to last month’s quarantine of repatriated Americans who were flown from Wuhan, China, and quarantined at the San Diego military base.

The announcement follows confirmation Monday night that the first travel-related case of coronavirus in San Diego had been identified. A woman in her 50s developed symptoms after returning from an overseas trip.

Santa Clara County remains the center of the epidemic in California, with 45 cases confirmed so far. The county’s public health department required the cancellation of all mass gatherings in the county and recommended social distancing.

“This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County,” said Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County. “The strong measures we are taking today are designed to slow the spread of disease.”

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