World Events

San Diego Zoo gorillas test positive for coronavirus

A sign asking visitors to maintain social distancing before the reopening of the San Diego Zoo. | Gregory Bull/AP Photo

01/11/2021 04:04 PM EST

Updated 01/11/2021 04:25 PM EST

Not even our primate cousins can escape California’s coronavirus surge.

Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed Monday that two gorillas at the San Diego Zoo had tested positive for the virus and another had exhibited symptoms — a striking sign of the pandemic’s reach as cases soar around California.

“Our beloved gorillas, obviously, we are concerned about,” Newsom said.

What it means: Newsom acknowledged the revelation would likely command the attention of Californians. The governor noted his four children were keenly interested in the gorilla cases, spurring him to publicize the tests because “what resonates at my house” tends to also interest the greater public.

The San Diego Zoo said in a statement that staff began testing the primates after some of them began coughing. Officials there believe an asymptomatic staff member may have infected the gorillas.

Research shows that some non-human primates are susceptible to the virus, but this would be the first natural transmission from humans to great apes. Big cats are not immune either, with several lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo testing positive last year.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” San Diego Zoo Safari Park Executive Director Lisa Peterson said in a statement. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”

The 100-acre zoo is an international draw, but it has remained closed since Newsom instituted stay-at-home orders in early December.

The background: The ape-breaking news punctuated the dire coronavirus situation in California. The average test positivity rate has risen above 13 percent. Hospitals are overloaded: intensive care unit capacity stood at 0 percent in Southern California and the Central Valley and just 0.7 percent in the Bay Area. Newsom said shutdown orders would likely remain in place.


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