Three new coronavirus patients confirmed in Northern California, bringing total to six statewide

Airline check in staff wear face masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 29, 2020. (MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
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By Adam Elmahrek and Matt Hamilton Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — Health officials in Northern California announced Sunday that three more people have been infected with the new strain of coronavirus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the nation to 11, with more than half of those in the state.

In San Benito County, health officials said that the two patients there were a married couple and that the husband had recently returned from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak that has killed more than 350 people in the country.

In Santa Clara County, authorities confirmed that a woman who also had recently traveled to Wuhan became infected with the virus, marking the second case in that county. Last week, Santa Clara County officials confirmed that a male resident who had just traveled from Wuhan also became infected. Two other confirmed cases in the state have been reported in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

In the San Benito County cases, the husband, 57, passed the virus on to his wife, also 57. The couple had not left their home since the husband returned from China. The county’s public health department said the two patients have not been hospitalized and remained isolated in their home.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely to protect the health of San Benito County residents and limit the spread of this virus,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s health officer.

The new Santa Clara County case involves a woman who arrived in the U.S. on Jan. 23 to visit family, officials said. She has stayed home since she arrived, except for two trips to seek outpatient medical care. She has been regularly monitored and was never sick enough to be hospitalized.

Family members have also been isolated, which means that they do not leave the house, even to buy groceries, officials said. The county health department is providing food and other necessary items.

“I understand that people are concerned, but based on what we know today, the risk to general public remains low,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s health officer. “A second case is not unexpected. With our large population and the amount of travel to China for both personal and business reasons, we will likely see more cases.”

The new strain of coronavirus has killed more than 350 people since it emerged in Wuhan in late December. Eleven cases have now been confirmed in the United States and more than 17,300 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. The vast majority of the infections have occurred in China.

On Friday, the Trump administration said it was declaring a public health crisis and restricting travel from China to the U.S.

Starting Sunday, foreign nationals who have recently visited China won’t be allowed to enter the U.S., and American citizens returning from mainland China will be subject to 14-day quarantines. Nearly 200 people who left Wuhan fleeing the virus were evacuated last week to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County and quarantined.

Though the new coronavirus has generated a worldwide scare and led to a dramatic drop in the stock market of more than 600 points, health officials say the risk of being sickened with influenza remains an exponentially greater threat to most Americans. The flu has killed more than 10,000 Americans since October, according to federal data released Friday.

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