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Berkeley Reports Its First Confirmed Coronavirus Patient

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 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A Berkeley resident has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the first confirmed case in the city, health officials reported Tuesday.

The resident returned to Berkeley on Feb. 23 "from one of the growing number of countries with a COVID-19 outbreak," the city said in a statement, referring to the highly contagious disease. "Concerned about being exposed through travel, the resident largely stayed at home in a voluntary self-imposed quarantine."

The city did not immediately respond to a request for information about which country the patient had come from, when the diagnosis was made and where the patient is being treated.

"While the risk of infection remains low, the expanded presence of the virus in our community is a reality we should all prepare for," said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley health officer. "There are steps that all of us in the community can take now to improve basic hygiene and also prepare for a wider spread in the future."

Berkeley public health officials are currently investigating whether the patient made contact with other people since returning to the U.S., the city said, adding that anyone potentially exposed will be notified and evaluated.

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The announcement comes amid a worldwide outbreak of the newly identified disease. Although the number of confirmed cases in California remains relatively low, there has been sharp increase — of at least dozen new cases in the Bay Area — in the past week, including more than seven reported in Santa Clara County alone. The Berkeley patient marks the second confirmed case in Alameda County.

On Tuesday afternoon, Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley proclaimed a local emergency, which allows the city to marshal more resources in preparation for any new cases. Additionally, the city said it is receiving guidance from officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health.

In light of the announcement, Berkeley plans to hold a “Twitter town hall” with Hernandez on Friday, March 6 at noon. Community members can tweet questions to @CityofBerkeley using the hashtag #BerkCOVID19 or submit them anonymously through this online form.

This week, the Berkeley Unified School District also posted an online message on how it is currently monitoring the situation.

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