Coronavirus outbreak cuts short cruise from San Francisco to Mexico after passenger dies

A cruise ship voyage that set sail from San Francisco was cut short after a cluster of coronavirus cases discovered in Northern California were determined to be connected to a contaminated ship, the cruise line said. 

Officials confirmed on Wednesday that a previous passenger who was exposed to the virus on a Grand Princess cruise ship has died. 

The 71-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday in Placer County and was in isolation at Kaiser Permanente Roseville.

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The elderly patient had underlying health conditions and is the first to die from the illness in California, Placer County officials said. However, it's unclear if those pre-existing health conditions also contributed to his death. 

He traveled from Feb. 11-21 on a Grand Princess "Mexican Riviera" cruise ship from San Francisco and was likely exposed to the virus while onboard. 

Placer County health officials said the patient developed symptoms while on the cruise and was still symptomatic when he arrived back.

Doctors said the man had minimal community exposure between returning from the cruise and arriving at the hospital by ambulance on Feb. 27. He only had contact with one other person, authorities said. 

Sonoma County also confirmed a COVID-19 case associated with that excursion. 

Out of an abundance of caution, the Center for Disease Control is urging all other passengers who were on that trip to self-quarantine and monitor for any coronavirus symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. 

Experts say symptoms may appear after two to 14 days after exposure. 

A cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Hawaii was supposed to make a stop in Mexico on Thursday but the call was canceled over the possibility of an outbreak on the ship. The ship was ordered to sail directly back to the Port of San Francisco and was expected to arrive Thursday afternoon. But Gov. Newsom said the vessel would remain off the coast of the Bay until everyone on board is evaluated by medical staff. 

The governor said at a news conference on Wednesday that 11 passengers and 10 crew members are showing COVID-19 symptoms. 

He added that coronavirus testing kits are being flown out to the ship. 

The City of San Francisco said it was notified by the United States Coast Guard and CDC that the vessel was headed back with some passengers who have "influenza-like symptoms."

City officials said they are ready to support the efforts of the USCG and CDC to provide appropriate care to passengers and crew on board. 

Guests on the cruise ship are required to remain in their rooms until they are assessed. 

The CDC and state and county health authorities are contacting previous passengers and people who might have been exposed. 

Following California's first coronavirus death, Newsom declared a state of emergency that will allocate $37 million in grants to help respond to the virus. 


File Photo: The Grand Princess arrives to the Bay Area. Copyright: Duncan Sinfield. (Duncan Sinfield)