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Coronavirus Death in California Came Weeks Before First Known U.S. Death

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Feb 21, 2014
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Coronavirus Death in California Came Weeks Before First Known U.S. Death

By Thomas Fuller and Mike Baker

SAN FRANCISCO — Officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., announced late Tuesday that two residents there died of the coronavirus in early and mid-February, making them the earliest known victims of the pandemic in the United States.

The new information may shift the timeline of the virus’s spread through the country weeks earlier than previously believed.

The first report of a coronavirus-related death in the United States came on Feb. 29 in the Seattle area, although officials there later discovered that two people who had died Feb. 26 also had the virus.

But Santa Clara County officials said that autopsies of two people who died at their homes on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 showed that the individuals were infected with the virus. The presence of the disease Covid-19 was determined by tissue samples and was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county health officials said in a statement.

“Each one of those deaths is probably the tip of an iceberg of unknown size,” Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. “It feels quite significant.”

Dr. Cody said the individuals who died in February did not have any known travel histories that would have exposed them to the virus, which first appeared in China. They are presumed to have contracted the virus in the community, she said.

The newly reported deaths suggest that the coronavirus may have been spreading in California much earlier than was previously known, said Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, the Santa Clara county executive and a medical doctor.

“It was probably around unrecognized for quite some time,” Dr. Smith said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/coronavirus-first-united-states-death.html
 

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