CA coronavirus deaths rise to 23 as community spread is suspected in hundreds of confirmed cases

Coronavirus
A medical worker guides a car that is going through a coronavirus drive-thru test clinic at the San Mateo County Event Center on March 16, 2020, in San Mateo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A medical worker guides a car that is going through a coronavirus drive-thru test clinic at the San Mateo County Event Center on March 16, 2020, in San Mateo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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The number of coronavirus-related deaths in California climbed to 23 Saturday as health officials announced they will no longer be tracking arrivals from overseas since most of the state’s confirmed cases are not related to travel.

When the virus was first reported in the state in late January, health officials quickly identified the source of exposure as being travel-related as people arrived from China and other countries with widespread COVID-19 outbreaks before travel restrictions took effect around the globe.

But since California’s first case of community transmission was confirmed in Solano County on Feb. 26, hundreds more similar infections were reported statewide throughout March.

At least 325 of California’s 1,224 confirmed COVID-19 cases are suspected of being community-acquired and 122 are the result of person-to-person transmission, according to the California Department of Public Health.

In comparison, 92 of the cases were believed to be travel-related as of Saturday.

But the vast majority of the state’s cases — at least 657 — remain under investigation.

“In order to better focus public health resources on the changing needs of California communities, the state is no longer collecting information about California travelers returning from countries that have confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks,” California health officials said in a news release, adding that most of the confirmed cases in the state are not related to travel outside of the United States.

As local health agencies saw more evidence of community spread, officials have urged residents to stay home and practice “social distancing” to slow down the spread of the virus.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday issued a sweeping statewide order instructing 40 million Californians to stay home indefinitely and only go outside only for essential jobs or errands like getting food or medical care.

As of Friday, 25,200 people had been tested for the coronavirus in California, and results for more than half of the tests were still pending, according to the agency.

There are 22  state and county health labs approved to do coronavirus testing throughout California.

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