The coronavirus has officially arrived in San Francisco as of Monday after a husband and wife who both tested positive for the virus arrived at an initially unnamed San Francisco hospital.*
The couple's symptoms reportedly worsened overnight while they were being treated at home in San Benito County, and they were transferred by specialized ambulance this morning to San Francisco for escalated treatment. As KPIX reports, the husband had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, arriving back in California on January 24 — much like the case of the Santa Clara County man who was confirmed Friday as the Bay Area's first case of the virus. The San Benito County couple, though, represent a person-to-person transmission case — the wife, who had not been China, appears to have contracted the virus from her husband. Both are 57 years old.
In a statement issued Monday, San Francisco's Department of Public Health said the hospital where the couple was moved "is taking all appropriate precautions for patient and staff safety." Also, the department said that the couple's arrival in SF "represent[s] no elevated risk to the public." Later on Monday, news outlets began reporting that the couple had been moved into isolation at UCSF Parnassus, which specializes in treating complex infectious disease cases. The San Francisco Business Times confirms that the couple is being treated there.
San Benito County health officials stressed that the couple had had zero contact with the outside world since the husband's return to the country, and the pair had both been in constant contact with health officials since the husband began exhibiting symptoms several days after arriving home.
On Sunday, Santa Clara County officials confirmed that a second case of the virus — in a woman who had come from China to visit family here.
While the Centers for Disease Control has tried to make clear that the virus does not yet appear to be spreading in the United States, world health experts are on edge that a pandemic could be just around the corner.
SFO and 10 other American airports are conducting enhanced screenings of all passengers arriving from China, and likely from elsewhere in Asia as well. This has led to extremely long waits at customs for many passengers at SFO, as well as a surreal scene out of a contagion movie.
According to this dynamic map of the virus's spread from Johns Hopkins University, the vast majority of cases of the virus remain in mainland China, with nearly 17,500 confirmed as of Monday. There are now 11 confirmed cases in the U.S., including six in California. Infectious disease experts place the likely number of current global cases closer to 100,000, and as of several days ago, over 100 cases were still pending confirmation in the U.S.
As the New York Times reports, in a Saturday interview with Fox News that aired just before the Super Bowl, President Trump defended the government's actions in limiting travel from China — an earlier announcement suggested that everyone arriving here from Wuhan or the Hubei province will be subject to automatic quarantines of up to 14 days. "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” Trump said. “But we can’t have thousands of people coming in who may have this problem, the coronavirus. We’re going to see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes."
Critics have pointed out that Trump devoted most of his interview to airing his grievances against various enemies in the Democratic Party, including potential rivals in the 2020 race, rather than seriously discussing what is a growing global health crisis and potential source of mass panic.
*SFist earlier misstated that the couple had been moved to SF General, but the Department of Public Health had decided not to name the hospital where they are being treated. This post has been updated to reflect further reports that the hospital is UCSF Parnassus.