Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon in response to the new coronavirus, although the California Department of Public Health says the risk to the general public is low.

Newsom’s declaration makes extra resources available across the state in the wake of the first death in California from COVID-19 in Placer County. No cases have been reported in San Joaquin County.

The emergency declaration will provide help to local governments, protect against price gouging and make it possible for supplemental health care workers to come in from outside the state.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among humans and animals. The source of the new virus is not yet known.

In humans, coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate respiratory illnesses. Symptoms are very similar to the flu — fever, cough, shortness of breath — and can take two to 14 days to appear. A small number of people develop more severe respiratory illness.

Internationally, about 80% people who have tested positive for COVID-19 did not have symptoms that would require hospitalization.

The World Health Organization announced Tuesday that globally the death rate for people with COVID-19 has reached 3.4%. As a comparison, seasonal flu kills about 1% of people who catch it. But although COVID-19 is more likely to cause death than the flu, it does not spread as easily.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the new coronavirus is spread mainly by people who are in close contact with each other or by droplets dispersed when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California. Of those, 24 were people who had been flown back to the state after being diagnosed in another country. The remaining 29 cases included 12 related to travel, seven linked to contact with an ill family member, three from exposure at a health care facility and four from community transmission. Three were from unknown sources.

The only person in California who has died because of COVID-19 was an elderly person with a preexisting health condition from Placer County. The person was likely exposed to the virus during a February cruise out of San Francisco on the Grand Princess. That ship is now being held off the coast while health officials test several passengers and crew members exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

The CDC reported as of Wednesday afternoon that there were 13 states reporting a total of 100 confirmed cases and 10 deaths.

Also Wednesday, San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton released a statement saying that a Delta health sciences student working at a medical facility outside of the county had been exposed to the coronavirus on Sunday. The student treated a patient who had not yet tested positive for the coronavirus and then returned to the Stockton college campus on Monday.

The San Joaquin County Department of Public Health said the risk to Delta students, employees and faculty members was very low and all relevant areas of the campus were being sanitized. The student has begun a 14-day self-isolation as a precaution.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Contra Costa County was found Tuesday. The patient had no known travel history or contact with another confirmed case of disease, and the case is being investigated by the county health department.

Tracy Unified School District sent a letter to students’ families Friday stating that administrators were monitoring the situation. The school district emphasized that parents and guardians should keep children home from school if they feel sick to prevent the spread of any respiratory viruses, including the flu and the coronavirus.

Help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19.

If you think you are sick and experiencing the signs of COVID-19 and you have either had contact with someone who is sick or traveled to an area where the virus is active, the California Department of Health recommends calling your health provider or the local public health department immediately — before seeking medical care — so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

The San Joaquin County Public Health Department can be reached at 209-468-3411. More information at

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