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Coronavirus Update: Gov. Newsom Says 50% Of State's COVID-19 Cases Aged 18-49

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference Tuesday that a full half of COVID-19 cases was made up of patients between the ages of 18 and 49.

Newsom provided the sobering figures from the latest coronavirus case count for the state during his nightly address on the subject.

Newsom prefaced his comments on how the disease was impacting younger residents of the state by announcing that a teen from Lancaster was among the more recent casualties from the virus and offering his condolences to the young man's family before giving a warning with the new numbers.

However, later Tuesday evening, Los Angeles County health officials backtracked on their announcement that the child died from coronavirus, saying it's possible the death was caused by something else.

During their daily briefing, the county health department said the unidentified child from the city of Lancaster was among four new deaths.

Hours later, after Newsom had cited the death of the teenager as evidence the virus can strike anyone, the county issued a new statement.

"Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality" and the case will need evaluation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statement said.

The health department released no details but Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris in the Mojave Desert city told the Los Angeles Times the boy suffered septic shock, a reaction to a widespread infection that can cause dangerously low blood pressure and organ failure. Parris said the boy's father also has coronavirus and worked in a job where he had close contact with the public.

The teenager didn't have any preexisting medical conditions, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference.

"Young people can and will be impacted by this virus. In fact, young people disproportionately are the ones testing positive in the state of California," Newsom said. "Fifty percent of the 2,102 individuals who have tested positive [as of Tuesday morning] -- 50 percent -- are between the ages of 18 and 49. I'll repeat that. Half of those who have tested positive to date in the state of California are 18 to 49 years old."

An additional 26 percent of cases were affecting patients aged 50-64, Newsom said. While he noted that the severity of the disease and hospitalization rate skewed older, the death of the teen stood as a reminder of the fact that the disease impacts everyone.

"What more evidence do you need of a loss of a young person's life?" asked Newsom. "And I just cannot impress upon the young people the seriousness of the moment and how critical they are to ultimately getting us on the other side by practicing that social distancing that we all are accustomed to hearing, but not in every case advancing individually."

Newsom said the latest jump marked a 17.5 percent increase in the number of cases in the state. 40 coronavirus patients in the state had died as of early Tuesday, but the Governor noted that both of those numbers were sure to increase significantly as more tests were processed.

The Governor used the discussion of the number of cases and who was being sickened by the virus to reiterate the current stay-at-home order in affect across the state.

"It is incumbent among all Californians to continue to take our stay at home order seriously; to continue to do the kind of social distancing that common sense dictates and heed the warnings we advanced yesterday to stay out of settings like beaches and parks where you're coming into close contact with others," said Newsom. "Practice social distancing. We had to step up our enforcement yesterday as it relates to shutting down those parking facilities, the consequence of reinforcing or reminding people of the seriousness of the moment."

Newsom also touched on an executive order he had issued regarding the intake process of prisoners to address anxieties related to COVID-19 to protect staff and inmates. According to the order, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will temporarily halt the intake and/or transfer of inmates and youth into the state's 35 prisons and four youth correctional facilities. Those inmates and youth will remain in county custody for the next 30 days. The virus would also impact upcoming parole hearings. Those hearings, usually held in person, would likely switch to video conferencing.

The Governor also thanked those who were helping the state in the effort to fight COVID-19, singling out Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose companies had already delivered over 1,000 ventilators to be used by hospitals to the state. Newsom also thanked businessman Richard Branson, who he said was flying to California with a 747 full of personal protection equipment that would be donated to hospitals for use.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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