Airport passenger screened for coronavirus
An airport passenger is screened for coronavirus. Courtesy CDC

A second case of coronavirus in California that is not connected with travel to China was reported Friday in Santa Clara County in the Bay Area.

The new case brings to 34 the number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus strain in California. Twenty-four of the cases are Americans evacuated from the Wuhan region of China, seven are travel-related, one is from contact with an infected spouse, and now two are from an unknown source.

The report raises concerns about whether the virus has begun to spread on its own in the state.

“CDC is working with California to identify how the patient was exposed to the novel coronavirus as well as identify people who might have been exposed to this patient,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an afternoon tweet.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department said the new patient is an older adult woman with chronic health conditions who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness.

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” said Dr. Sara Cody, director of the department. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”

Her department said the next step will be “to conduct community surveillance to determine the extent of local transmission.”

The state Department of Public Health said Friday that despite the new cases, the health risk to California residents remains low.

“While COVID-19 has a high transmission rate, it has a low mortality rate,” the Department of Public Health said in an advisory on its website. “From the international data we have, of those who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80 percent do not exhibit symptoms that would require hospitalization.”

The department noted that there have been no confirmed deaths related to coronavirus in the United States.

In another coronavirus development on Friday, United Airlines said it would cancel flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo beginning March 8.

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to the common flu, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Updated at 5:10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28, 2020

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.