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Two people died in California from COVID-19 weeks before first reported death in US | Local coronavirus update

The Santa Clara County Public Health Office said on Tuesday that two people died inside of their homes in February when little testing was available through the CDC.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Here are the latest updates on coronavirus and how local governments are responding to the illness, with a focus on California for Tuesday, April 21.


The California Department of Public Health reports:

  • Confirmed cases: 33,261 
  • 1,208 deaths 
  • 22 state and county labs processing tests for COVID-19.
  • Click here for complete information on coronavirus, unemployment, and more from the state of California.


  • Three people who died in their Santa Clara County homes in February and early March tested positive for COVID-19, proving that the virus was present weeks before the country's first coronavirus-related death. The Santa Clara County Public Health Office said on Tuesday that two people died inside of their homes when very little testing was available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which set testing criteria to only those who had recently traveled. One of the people died on Feb. 6, 2020, and the second person died on Feb. 17, 2020. A third person who tested positive for the virus died on March 6, 2020, just three days before what was initially thought to be the United States' first death.
  • California recommends virus tests for some with no symptoms: New testing guidelines from the California Department of Public Health recommend testing people in high-risk settings even if they don't have symptoms. The new guidelines are aimed at health care workers, prisoners and the homeless. The California Department of Public Health released the testing guidelines in a memo dated Sunday that was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Recent outbreaks have hit two California homeless shelters in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most of the people infected in the San Francisco shelter did not have symptoms. California is now testing an average of 14,500 people per day.
  • CHP denying permits for events at State Capitol state facilities amid pandemic: A day after hundreds of protesters gathered in Sacramento to protest stay at home orders, the California Highway Patrol has come out saying they'll be denying permit requests for events or activities at all state facilities. The policy will remain until public health officials say it is safe to gather again. “In the interest of public safety and the health of all Californians during the COVID-19 pandemic, effective immediately the California Highway Patrol will deny any permit requests for events or activities at all state facilities, to include the State Capitol, until public health officials have determined it is safe to gather again,” CHP said in a statement to ABC10.
  • Sacramento County Fair canceled: The Sacramento County Fair has canceled their 2020 fair. The fair was scheduled to happen in late May, however, the coronavirus pandemic has changed those plans. Late last month, fair executive director Pamela Fyock was hopeful that the fair could still go on because of the hundreds of students with FFA and 4-H projects that depended on the livestock show and auction. The fair will be holding an online virtual auction to support 4-H, FFA, and independent exhibitors; it's planned for May 22 and May 23, depending on the animal. 
  • Yolo County confirms Woodland skilled nursing facility as outbreak source: Yolo County spokesperson Jenny Tan confirmed that there were deaths at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital in Woodland due to the coronavirus. As of April 21, there were 64 coronavirus cases at the facility, including 31 residents and 33 staff. Six residents have died. In regard to staff cases, six of them live outside of Yolo County. “The loss of life associated with this outbreak is a devastating moment for our community,” said Yolo County Public Health Officer, Dr. Ron Chapman. “We must acknowledge the suffering of family and friends at this time, who not only lost a loved one, but were unable to be at that individual’s bedside due to the risk of exposure to illness. This fear and uncertainty continues for those that are battling COVID-19 and must remain in isolation. Yet, in the midst of this outbreak, heroic work is occurring to care for and respond to the needs of staff, residents, and families at the facility.” In addition to the outbreak at Stollwood, the county confirmed a single case at the Californian Assisted Living and Dementia Care facility in Woodland. That resident was sent to Stollwood since it already had the resources and care plan in place. Officials say the virus hasn't spread to others at the Californian.
  • City of Placerville response to coronavirus: Last week, Placerville City Councilmembers approved the city manager to send a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and legislators about the coronavirus impact on their city and a path to reopening. In a response to the approval, the City says their area and county is different from densely populated areas like Sacramento and San Francisco, and standards for reopening the state should recognize the differences among the counties. Officials say the city is looking for a transitional opening as it "looks to develop a phase plan within the state's orders."
  • Californians For All is now live online for those who wish to volunteer during the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the site will connect healthy Californians, who may be unsure how to help during the pandemic, to volunteer opportunities available. Several options are available, including some you can do from home. 
  • The Sacramento Police Department has created an online registry for business owners to help streamline communication, the department said. In a press release issued Tuesday, Sac PD said the registry comes in addition to increased patrols and amended dispatch procedures. The changes come in response to an upward trend in burglaries following the California stay-at-home order, which began on March 19, the press release stated.
  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Sacramento County is up to 954 with 35 deaths attributed to the disease, according to the public health department. Tuesday’s numbers reflect an increase of 14 cases and one additional death. All the deaths, so far, have been from patients who are either 65 years or older and/or those who had underlying health conditions, health officials said. The majority of the cases in the county (421) are people between the ages of 18 and 49. The latest numbers included eight people in this age group.
  • The biggest Fourth of July celebration on the north shore of Lake Tahoe has been canceled. The town of Incline Village on the Nevada side of the lake straddling the California-Nevada line determined it was too risky to move forward with vendor contracts that need to be signed for the annual fireworks and other activities. Fireworks are still planned on the south end of the lake, where Tahoe's biggest gathering typically attracts tens of thousands. 


Coronavirus Background

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine; however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Stay home when you are sick.
  4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  5. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  6. Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.


Some people have compared the low overall death toll to the flu's high annual death toll in the United States as a reason not to be concerned about COVID-19, however, doctors and health officials are concerned for three main reasons:

  1. Some people have built up immunity to the flu, but few have immunity to COVID-19 version of coronavirus
  2. Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread by droplets, but COVID-19 might be spread in the air. Scientists are researching exactly how COVID-19 spreads.
  3. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public where social distancing measures would be difficult to maintain, like at a grocery store or pharmacy.



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