elderly man dead

A man wears a face mask as he checks his phone in Times Square on March 22, 2020 in New York City. An elderly resident of a largely Indian American community in California's Contra Costa County has died due to complications from the coronavirus. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

The Contra Costa County, California Public Health Department last week announced its first COVID-19 related death, a man in his '70s who had traveled from Europe.

In a briefing with reporters, Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s public health officer, said the elderly man had a condition that placed him at risk and he died at the hospital. Farnitano and the Public Health Department did not identify the man, nor his ethnicity.

But as the news broke over social media, posters identified the man, but did not name him, as a person from either Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka, who lived in a neighborhood in San Ramon that was largely Indian American. People speculated that the manner of death was a heart attack.

One source told India-West that the man’s 45-year-old son also contracted the coronavirus, and has been hospitalized in an intensive care unit. Rumors abounded that the son had also died, but a Contra Costa County health official confirmed to India-West that only one COVID-19 death has been registered in the county.

The source told this publication that the elderly man’s family are all under observation. Others posted on social media that the daughter-in-law has tested positive and her children are running high fevers, but this was not confirmed. A Contra Costa County health official cited privacy laws which prevented him from releasing additional information about the victim or family.

Farnitano told reporters that older adults are particularly vulnerable to succumbing to coronavirus.

Forty-two cases have been identified in the county, which sits in San Francisco’s East Bay Area. California has identified more than 3,000 cases and reported 67 deaths. New York is bearing the greatest toll: 385 people have died from COVID-19 related illnesses, according to March 25 data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Candace Andersen, who heads Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors. told reporters at the briefing: “Think about older people in your lives and how to protect them. It’s time for neighbors to look out for other neighbors.

“We’re at the start of the epidemic in Contra Costa County,” said Farnitano, adding that he expects more cases to be identified as testing kits become more widely available. The county’s public health labs are administering 40 to 100 tests each day, he said, noting that he expects the numbers of tests to rise.

The county is trying to secure additional ventilators and protective equipment to “be prepared for the future health care surge,” said Farnitano. He advised people to practice good hygiene, maintain social distancing, and stay at home, especially if exhibiting symptoms of the illness.

Farnitano did advise people to take walks and get exercise, while maintaining social distance of six feet. Andersen said the county’s playgrounds have been closed down as it is difficult for children to maintain distance from one another.

Children have largely not yet been affected by coronavirus, but they could be asymptomatic carriers, bringing the virus back to their families.

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