UPDATE 3-Worker at California's largest oil refinery tests positive for coronavirus -sources

Erwin Seba

coronavirus -sources@ (Adds company confirmation, staffing at refinery)

March 13 (Reuters) - An employee at California's largest oil refinery tested positive for the coronavirus and, along with a few other workers, went into self-quarantine this week.

The worker was diagnosed with COVID-19 and a "handful of people in contact with the employee were quickly identified and left work. All are now under management of the local Public Health Department," said Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry.

Marathon Petroleum Corp's Los Angeles Refinery, located in Carson, California, is the state's largest producer of gasoline, with the ability to process 363,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of crude oil into fuels.

The Carson plant is continuing regular operations, Marathon said. The refinery is believed to be the first in the United States to report a worker with the fast-spreading respiratory illness.

The pandemic has infected nearly 1,900 people in the United States and 141,000 in more than 130 nations worldwide, killed more than 5,000 and shuttered schools, sports arenas and offices.

California is one of the three hardest-hit U.S. states with about 250 reported coronavirus cases. The other two are Washington state, which accounts for most of the U.S. deaths, and New York.

The employee at the Los Angeles Refinery reported to the plant's health office and went into quarantine. How the person may have contracted the virus was not known.

The Carson plant employs about 850 people including managers and hourly labor, a person familiar with the matter said. In a crisis, it could remain in operation with about 600 people.

California has 15 refineries with a combined crude oil processing capacity of 1.9 million bpd. The West Coast has few ways of obtaining fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast or the Midwest and often turns to Asia and the Middle East for supplies when refineries are shut.

Marathon is the largest U.S. refiner, operating 16 refineries with a combined capacity to process 3 million bpd of crude oil, or 16% of national capacity.

While refineries can operate for periods at reduced staffing, they cannot adopt work-from-home rules or be operated remotely by employees at another refining site. (Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Berkrot)