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Coronavirus Update: San Francisco Mayor London Breed On Hijacked PPE Shipments; Retesting Death Cases For Links To COVID-19

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Mayor London Breed voiced her frustrations to a national television audience Sunday over hijacked shipments of personal protective equipment heading to San Francisco health care worker and retesting deaths within the city in early 2020 to see if they were the result of COVID-19.

Breed was a guest on CBS News 'Face The Nation' with Margaret Brennan.

In her Friday afternoon coronvirus update, Breed first brought up her anger over the hijacked PPE shipments earmarked for use within the city. She was asked about it again on Sunday.

"Well, there was a shipment that was on its way that we had purchased that was actually diverted from China to France," she said. "FEMA has the ability to confiscate some of the PPE at the border, which has occurred. It's been very difficult, and then sometimes getting things through customs or needing to use a ship rather than a plane and so we have been resourceful."

"We are lucky to have incredible people like Marc Benioff, who has really helped to work with UCSF, University of California, San Francisco, to get PPE and to bring it to the hospital and we've shared our resources with one another. But the fact is, this should be a federal coordinated effort."

Over the last week, the medical examiner in nearby Santa Clara County has reclassified nine deaths originally accredited to the flu to now being counted as coronavirus deaths including 57-year-old Patricia Dowd, who passed away on Feb. 6 and maybe the first victim to die of the illness in the United States.

Two other deaths on February 17th and March 6th were of elderly men. On Friday, the medical examiner sent a letter to the county Board of Supervisors informing them of the six new classifications.

Of the 29 flu deaths that have been reexamined so far and tested, nine were now being accredited to COVID-19. And more by be coming.

"Some cases are not yet closed and were not included in the current COVID-19 death count," medical examiner Dr. Michelle Jorden wrote in the letter.

When asked about the possibility of there being deaths associated with the coronavirus much earlier, Breed revealed San Francisco has also had a case that has been reclassified as a COVID-19 death and there may be more.

"I know that the governor has asked to do more testing of people who passed away during earlier periods before we had cases in order to determine whether or not they were COVID positive," she said. "In fact, one of our first cases of someone who passed away, who we declared is someone who passed away from COVID, actually passed away from a heart attack, and once we found out that their mom, who was in the same household, was diagnosed with COVID-19, we went back and tested this individual and discovered that they had it as well."

"So I think that it had been in the community for some time, but again, the lack of testing and resources available made it difficult to really get the facts around who was actually -- who had actually contracted COVID-19 before we started to announce the numbers."

As of Monday, San Francisco overall had 1,424 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths related to the virus.

Breed said because there are strong familial links between San Francisco and China, her administration began actually monitoring the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, late in 2019.

"We have been monitoring this situation since December of last year," she said. "We set in place a declaration of emergency back in February. We operated our emergency operations center because of those relationships between people who live in San Francisco and their relatives and their friends in various parts of China."

She said the city also has experienced the xenophobia generated by the disease as early as January.

"And we had experience, sadly, a lot of xenophobia against our Chinese community early on," she said. "I mean, basically, Chinatown was a ghost town in the month of January. And so, we had been keeping an eye on this and making adjustments in order to prepare our city for what we knew was actually coming here."

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