First U.S. coronavirus case of unknown origin confirmed in Northern California, CDC says

Darrell Smith and Cathie Anderson

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the nation’s first coronavirus case of unknown origin Wednesday in Northern California in the latest sign of the virus’ rapid spread.

“It is a confirmed case. There is one in Northern California,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Sacramento Bee just before 4 p.m. Wednesday. Pauley declined to elaborate.

It was immediately unknown where in Northern California the case was discovered, but officials have begun to trace the person’s contacts as they sleuth out where and how the person may have become infected and whether others have been exposed, The Washington Post reports.

The Post originally reported the story, citing a person briefed on the case. President Donald Trump was briefing reporters at the White House on the federal response to the outbreak, now feared to become a pandemic.

To date, public health officials worldwide have reported 2,770 deaths resulting from the coronavirus, 99 percent of them in mainland China. More than 81,300 cases of the illness have confirmed globally. All but 1,966 of those cases have been in China.

The CDC has reported 60 cases in the United States, 45 of whom were U.S. citizens evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and from Wuhan, China.

The Wednesday development comes a day after the CDC’s grim warning that a pandemic was nearing and that U.S. cities, communities and hospitals would have to ramp up for the virus’ spread.

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“Now is the time for U.S. businesses, hospitals and communities to begin preparing for the possible spread of COVID-19,” CDC officials posted Tuesday afternoon on the agency’s Twitter account.

In a CDC situation summary Tuesday, CDC officials said that more coronavirus cases are “likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States.” The CDC added that “person-to-person spread will likely continue to occur, including in the United States.”