California Reports Second Coronavirus Case of Unknown Origin
A customer enters a CVS Health Corp. store displaying a sign announcing the unavailability of masks on the door in San Francisco, California, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

California Reports Second Coronavirus Case of Unknown Origin

(Bloomberg) -- A second person in California has been diagnosed with the coronavirus despite a lack of known ties to other infected patients or areas, a further sign that the disease is likely spreading in some parts of the U.S.

The second case was reported Friday in the San Francisco Bay Area, with local health officials describing the patient as an adult woman with chronic health issues who had no recent history of travel and no known contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus.

The patient, hospitalized for having difficulty breathing, lives in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley. On Wednesday, health officials in the Golden State’s Solano County reported the nation’s first known coronavirus case that had no obvious source of infection. The two counties lie 90 miles apart, and officials said Friday that the latest patient had not recently traveled between them.

“What we know now is that the virus is here, present at some level, but we still don’t know to what degree,” said Sara Cody, director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

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The case came to light after a doctor treating the patient contacted the county health department on Wednesday and said the woman had symptoms that could represent coronavirus. The following morning, the doctor submitted a swab sample, which was tested at the county’s own health lab, Cody said. The results -- testing positive -- came back Thursday night, and the county began trying to identify and locate people who had come into contact with her.

Health officials around the U.S. have said they expect more cases and that the coronavirus is likely in wider circulation than the handful of diagnosed cases would indicate. State and local health departments, which are the front lines of detection, have struggled to get test kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention working properly. Without working kits, it’s been difficult or impossible for them to screen cases broadly.

The earlier patient from Solano County has extended family and interactions with people in Santa Clara County, according to Bela Matyas, a Solano health officer.

“Let me tell you this: I think it’s extremely likely that a fair amount of community transmission has been going on for a while so we don’t have to link them,” Matyas said. “The cat on this disease has been out of the bag for so long that there’s people everywhere that are potentially spreading it.”

The Santa Clara County patient was diagnosed with a locally administered test. Some local labs have complained that the test kits sent to them aren’t accurate, and the CDC limits categories of patients it says should be tested. In a statement, the CDC said the new patient was being considered a “presumptive positive case” and it will conduct confirmatory testing.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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