New autopsy results reveal that a patient in Santa Clara, California died of novel coronavirus on February 6, several weeks before the US declared its first COVID-19 death. The results also suggest that the virus was already in the San Francisco Bay Area earlier than officials thought.
The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) reported the first US coronavirus fatality in the US on February 28 in Kirkland, Washington.
The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is identifying two individuals who died of COVID-19 at home on February 6 and February 17. The health department said samples were sent to the CDC. A third autopsy found another patient died from coronavirus on March 6. The county originally announced its first coronavirus death March 6.
Just two days before the first death, the CDC tweeted about not recommending the use of facemasks to help prevent coronavirus and the virus not spreading in US communities. Now, facemasks are widely recommended.
CDC does not currently recommend the use of facemasks to help prevent novel #coronavirus. #2019nCoV is not spreading in communities in the US. Take everyday preventive actions to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. https://t.co/uArGZTrH5L pic.twitter.com/EZR5VZwK45— CDC (@CDCgov) February 4, 2020
“As the Medical Examiner-Coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified,” Santa Clara County Health Department said in a statement, SF Gate reports.
The deaths occurred in the earlier stages of the coronavirus outbreak, where US testing was widely limited because of availability and criteria and before it was declared a pandemic. At the time, testing was restricted to individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms.
Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 Dashboard reported on US cases as of Wednesday morning:
- 4,171,896 tests conducted in the US
- 830,789 confirmed coronavirus cases
- More than 45,000 deaths