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Coronavirus Cluster From Mexico Cruise Ship Grows; New Case In Alameda County

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Alameda County health officials announced a new coronavirus case Tuesday of a passenger who was on the Feb. 11-21 cruise to Mexico aboard the Grand Princess. There have been at least 14 cases including one death tracked back to that voyage.

The Grand Princess was been the centerpiece of two coronavirus outbreaks over the last month. The ship is currently at a secure dock in Oakland where its more than 2,000 passengers from a roundtrip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii were being slowly allowed to leave the boat, undergoing preliminary medical exams for the virus and then transported to a military base for a 14-day quarantine.

Of the more than 670 passenger taken off the ship by Tuesday afternoon, 24 U.S. residents were transported by ambulance to area hospitals.

In Alameda County, officials said spouse of a woman who already was diagnosed with the virus has now come down with the illness. While woman remains hospitalized, the man was under home care. Officials said both got off the Grand Princess cruise ship in February along with hundreds of Northern California residents were on the popular San Francisco to Mexico cruise.

"(Alameda County public health) has reached out to other Alameda County residents who were aboard that Grand Princess Cruise during its February trip, and we recommend that those who experienced symptoms (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) after the cruise and prior to March 6th be tested for COVID-19 by their healthcare provider," officials said in a release.

Among those on the cruise was Margie Hartle, who said when she got off the ship many people were coughing. She can't understand why all the passengers who were on the ship have not been tested.

"We were ground zero and you have 2500 people walking out -- right now in Sacramento, up in the foothills, whatever that might be carriers," she said. "What is going on...Just for my sanity (I would like to be tested) because I don't know if I'm a carrier or not."

Hartle said on her bus ride back to the Sacramento area there were several people coughing.

"I was sitting there and a lot of people were coughing," the 69-year-old said. "I thought this is kind of unusual because the air conditioning hasn't been on that long. So I covered my mouth.,..They (the people ill) were my age -- 50-plus and up. And I thought -- 'A lot of people are coughing a lot...Why is everyone coughing?'"

Dr. Christopher Braden, Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there was "a cluster" of potential coronavirus patients from that voyage.



"There are a number of other people who have been identified with some type of symptoms that are undergoing testing now," he said at a news conference last week, announcing the death of the 71-year-old adult male Rocklin resident who had been on the boat. "That information will be updated as we know more."

"There is a cluster of illness associated with the cruise," he continued, adding that investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were attempting to track all the passengers on the ill-fated cruise.

On Saturday, health officials announced a woman who works closely with "medically fragile" special needs students at a Chicago Public School has tested positive for the coronavirus. She also had traveled on the Grand Princess February cruise.

She is a special education classroom assistant at Vaughn Occupational High School in Chicago, which serves children with special needs, who "are medically fragile," CPS CEO, Dr, Janice Jackson said. Classes were canceled at the school next week and the building will be sterlized, officials said.

Also on Saturday, Santa Cruz County health officials said a local resident, who had been on the Mexico cruise, was quarantined at home recovering from the virus.

Santa Cruz Health Services Agency spokesman Jason Hoppin said his department was "conducting a thorough investigation to identify any potential exposures that may have occurred."

Multiple other Santa Cruz County residents who also traveled on the cruise ship last month who were now being "actively monitored" and under self-quarantines.

"We are taking this situation seriously and are taking steps necessary to protect the health and safety of Santa Cruz County residents," county Health Officer Gail Newel said.

Another passenger from the voyage, Judy Cadiz of Lodi, said she and her husband became ill afterward but had not given it much thought until learning a fellow traveler had died of the virus. Now, they cannot get a straight answer about how to get tested, she said.

With Mark Cadiz, 65, running a fever, the couple worries not only about themselves, but about the possibility that -- if they contracted the infection -- they could have passed it on to others.

"They're telling us to stay home, but nobody told me until yesterday to stay home. We were in Sacramento, we were in Martinez, we were in Oakland. We took a train home from the cruise," Judy Cadiz saidy. "I really hope that we're negative so nobody got infected."

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