Health and Science

California is monitoring at least 8,400 people for the coronavirus

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US confirms first possible community spread of the coronavirus

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and the state is currently monitoring at least 8,400 others —a day after U.S. health officials confirmed the first possible community transmission of the coronavirus in a Solano County resident.

"This is a fluid situation right now and I want to emphaize the risk to the American public remains low," said Dr. Sonia Y. Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer during a press conference. "There have been a limited number of confirmed cases to date."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't know exactly how the new California patient, who's receiving medical care in Sacramento County, contracted the virus. The patient didn't have a relevant travel history or exposure to another patient with the virus, the CDC said Wednesday.

California health officials said the patient wasn't under quarantine before her diagnosis and was out and about in her community.

A San Francisco Public Works Community Clean volunteer wearing a face mask removes trash on a street in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, California, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"We are currently in deep partnership with CDC on one overriding protocol that drives our principle 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 at a press conference.

Newsom said five of the 33 patients who tested positive for the virus have since left the state. It wasn't immediately clear whether the 33 positive cases were part of the group of Diamond Princess passengers who were evacuated from the cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan. The U.S. had 60 cases as of Wednesday night, 42 of which are people who were on the ship, according to the CDC.

California health officials have 200 testing kits on hand and will be receiving more over the next few days, Newsom said.

"We have just a few hundred testing kits and that's surveillance testing as well as diagnostic testing. That's simply inadequate to do justice to the kind of testing that is required to address this issue head on," he said.

Newsom said that the CDC has made "firm commitments" to improve the state's testing capacity, but did not provide details, such as how many testing kits the agency has agreed to send to the state.

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CA Governor Newsom: We are working with CDC to expand testing

California received the first flight in late January of people evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the epidemic. All 195 passengers were quarantined on the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County and released earlier this month. The state also took evacuees in at the Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, roughly 40 miles southwest of Sacramento, and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.

"We coordinated those first flights, that first flight in particular, in January, late January down into Riverside at March," Newsom said. "Over 800 people have come in on those flights, but that's a small part of the overall picture. Thousands and thousands of other people have come in on more traditional flights through the state of California."

A mistake in the lab earlier this month led U.S. health officials to release from the hospital an infected coronavirus patient who was part of the group quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

CDC officials later told UC San Diego Health that further testing revealed that the patient in fact tested positive for the virus. That patient was returned from quarantine at the Marine Corps base to the UC San Diego Health facility "for observation and isolation until cleared by the CDC for release."

One other evacuee who was in quarantine at the Miramar base also tested positive for the virus, UC San Diego Health's Dr. Randy Taplitz said on Feb. 13.

— CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this article.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that the Solano County resident was an apparent case of a community-sourced transfer of the virus.